NHS Drug Tariff approval for FreeStyle Libre System

By Editor
13th September 2017
Medical devices

The FreeStyle Libre System will be available on the NHS from November 1 subject to local health economy approval.

The “game-changing technology” allows people with diabetes to track their blood sugar levels without having to prick their fingers.

Manufacturer Abbott announced today that it has secured reimbursement listing for the flash glucose monitoring system on the NHS Drug Tariff after getting the green light from the NHS Business Services Authority.

It will be available for reimbursement via the NHS across England and Wales, NHS Scotland and Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland for people with type 1 and 2 diabetes who are intensively-using insulin.

The flash glucose monitoring system is designed to change how people with diabetes measure their glucose levels and ultimately help them achieve better health outcomes.

The system automatically reads glucose levels through a sensor, approximately the size of a £2 coin, that is worn on the back of the upper arm for up to 14 days, eliminating the need for routine finger pricks and user calibration.

Two clinical trials and real-world evidence from more than 50,000 users show that people who use the FreeStyle Libre system scan their glucose levels an average of at least 15 times per day. In real-world use, higher rates of scanning to self-monitor glucose were found to be strongly associated with improved glucose measures, including decreased time in hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia  and reduced
estimated HbA1c.

Neil Harris, general manager of Abbott’s UK diabetes care business, said the FreeStyle Libre System represented “game-changing technology”.

He said: “The FreeStyle Libre system has been shown to offer life-changing improvements for people with diabetes intensively-using insulin, to help them live healthier and fuller lives. We are delighted with the Health Services’ decisions, and we look forward to partnering with them to provide the several thousands of people with diabetes with our innovative technology to help manage their condition.”

With the data from the FreeStyle Libre system, people can have a better understanding of their glucose levels through the Ambulatory Glucose Profile (AGP), a chart generated by the system that provides a visual snapshot of glucose levels, trends and patterns over time. It also provides doctors with deeper insights to help make more informed treatment decisions.

Mr Harris added: “We are in the process of implementing a multi-channel education and support programme for both patients and clinicians to ensure that the community is able to benefit from this reimbursement decision in the most effective possible way. We are also in direct communication with Local Health Economies to ensure that those intensively using insulin are given access to this innovative technology in the months and years ahead.”

FreeStyle Libre sensor components are manufactured at Abbott’s manufacturing and R&D site in Witney, Oxfordshire. There are currently 1,400 Abbott employees in the UK. Last year Abbott announced 150 jobs were due to be created over the next 18 months as a result of the adoption of FreeStyle Libre system globally. The FreeStyle Libre system has over 300,000 users globally and is available in more than 35 countries.

Chris Askew is Chief Executive of Diabetes UK. He said: “Today’s announcement is fantastic news: Not since the transition from urine testing to finger-prick testing has there been such potential to transform the lives of people living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes through technology.

“Flash glucose monitoring can free people living with diabetes from the pain and rigour of frequent finger-prick testing, and puts them in greater control of their condition. In doing so, it has the potential to help prevent a host of devastating long-term complications. Today’s decision is testament to the commitment of campaigners, clinicians and policy makers to making this technology available.

“The challenge now will be that everyone who could benefit from this technology is able to access it where they live; Diabetes UK will be looking to local decision makers to ensure people living with diabetes get proper access to this potentially life-changing technology.”

Comments (13)

  1. Simon Hocking says:

    I have just started a 2 week free trial from my hospital and they told me the pharmacist can buy at £35 so this is where the cost comes from

  2. P Cork says:

    Just found the February 2018 version of the NHS Drug Tariff with the cost to the NHS of test strips and Abbotts Libre sensors.

    Comparing costs actually paid by the NHS rather than retail prices in the NICE guidance, moving to Libre sensors would save the NHS £188 per annum. Not much but when the additional future costs of treating poorly controlled diabetics left with little information of moment by moment blood sugars and trends leading to health damaging high or low blood sugars. Maximising time spent in normal target blood sugars and reducing future health problems and a limited life is the main reason diabetics test but only CGMs/Flash monitors allow proper control, so even a small cost saving will have a greater benefit to diabetics. See cost savings set out below for a pump user like me using compatible Contour Next Link test strips.

    Annual Actual Costs Based on Drug Tariff from 1st November 2017
    source: https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/2018-01/February%202018.pdf

    NHS Drug Tariff Cost/£ Unit Cost/£ Consumption Cost pa/£ Source
    Next 50 Strips 15.04 0.30 min. 10 per day 1,097.92 p278
    Libre Sensor 35.00 35.00 1 per 2 weeks 910.00 p769
    Saving 187.92

    Notes
    These comparative costs do not include the additional need to use test strips before driving but that additional cost is the same for Libre users and diabetics using test strips. This costing follows NHS cost guidance in using like for like costs. Note NICE and CCGs costings do not follow NHS guidance and instead use retail cost unit costs of Libre sensors and do not consider the additional savings of QALYs although the NICE document does make reference to an Australian meta research paper. Including QALYs costs of future diabetic complications will make a significant saving to the NHS.
    Having been on the research trail for Libre sensors, I already have the additional reader and have undertaken training to use the device.
    Some Regional Commissioning bodies will have the option to bulk buy devices and gain further savings. I understand East of England did this for diabetic pumps and consumables.

    I hope this helps other diabetics in putting together a cost comparison for themselves to forward onto their CCG and Regional Commissioning body.

  3. Neil Absolom says:

    Neil Absolom Poole Dorset 3/2/18
    Unfortunatley I have just been given the same news that dorset ccg won’t be funding this fantastic system.
    Since using the Freestyle system my diabetic consultant has remarked on the massive improvement in my control of my diabetes.I have the same problem of trying to fund this myself as I am unable to work due to ill health it is even more difficult.When is the ccg going to wake up to how good the freestyle libre is seeing as NICE have already approved the use of libre!
    why should we be put into a post code lottery.

  4. James Bambrough says:

    I’ve just written to my CCG and picked through their assessment of the use of the Freestyle Libre – the assessment can be found here if anyone is interested (https://www.herefordshireccg.nhs.uk/who-we-are/publications/medicines-optimisation/prescribing-guidelines/diabetes/1371-freestyle-libre-commissioning-statement-sep17/file).

    I’ve contested several of the points made, and also asked for which patient group and patients they had talked to – of which I believe there aren’t any! I’m a type 1 diabetic for 22 years, and after suffering from night-time hypo and morning highs, this device has finally helped me get this totally under control. Really is lifechanging.

    I’m trying to pull together my own report that highlights the benefits in terms of medically, financially and personally to submit to the CCG to get them to reconsider. If anybody has any information, particularly around where this has been approved for use, then I would really appreciate hearing from you.

  5. P Cork says:

    Hi John,

    As you will be aware the NHS are looking for ways to innovate and save money. As a diabetic with an insulin pump, I would like to put forward a cost comparison to my local CCG to support changing to using Libre sensors in place of test strips. Can you help by letting me know where you came across a figure of £35 for these sensors?

    Also does anyone else know the cost to the NHS of buying Contour Next Link test strips?

    If the sensors are sent direct to the user and billed to the CCG by Abbotts, then the additional costs of GP practise prescribing followed pharmacist charge can be saved and enhance the saving proposal.

    Based on list prices, moving to using Libre sensors would save a minimum of £434 per year without the additional prescribing costs and any deals the NHS may get with the manufacturers.

  6. Judith Boyce says:

    I have been self funding the Freestyle Libre since last June. It is expensive but has taught me so much about my diabetic control. I can only afford one every other month. I have hypo unawareness after having had type 1 for 42 years. It is an excellent aid towards more control. Unfortunately E. Devon CCG will not fund this aid.

  7. John Reynolds says:

    West Essex CCG won’t fund Freestyle Libre sensors. I haven’t heard of a local CCG that will fund them yet. Feels like it will be a long long time before these are available on prescription. It’s a shame as it’s a great system but expensive to fund yourself. I had heard that the NHS can buy for about £35 per sensor. Why do I have to pay £56 from Abbott? At least I am buying them – it’s just a promise from the NHS at the moment

  8. Richard Kennard says:

    My wife’s diabetes control has always been eractic. She is now in a care home and it’s the nurses who have to treat her. I asked about the FreeStyle Libre System but the nurses are not hopeful she would be able to get it prescribed because it’s not available locally (Worcestershire). When I asked a retired DSN what she thought she could not see the point of the system as my wife is still able to have finger prick tests. When I suggested I buy a month’s supply to see if it was siutable I was advised it was not a good idea.

  9. Helen Lewis says:

    I’m disgusted my daughter who I’m a carer for has been using sensors for nearly 2 years, her GP won’t put them on free prescription because he says they are not cost effective and not suitable for type 1 does anyone else have this issue. We live in the Bath & North East area. So just paid out £101.52 ordering her 2 sensors

  10. Spencer Rudkin says:

    I’ve just been told that they are NOT going to available on prescription in Bedfordshire!!

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