FDA approves first blood sugar monitor without finger prick

Tools used to check blood sugar and insulin to level blood sugar for a diabetic. (Photo: Pixabay)

(CBS) -- U.S. regulators have approved the first continuous blood sugar monitor for diabetics that does not need backup finger prick tests.

Current models require users to test a drop of blood twice daily to calibrate, or adjust, the monitor.

Though keeping an eye on blood sugar levels is needed to manage insulin, many people are wary of monitoring it because of the pain and cost of current testing methods.

The new model, Abbott's new FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday.

Users wave a reader device over a small sensor attached to the upper arm to see current blood sugar levels and changes over the last eight hours.

Most of the 30 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes use standard glucose monitors which require multiple finger pricks every day.

Abbott's device was approved for adults with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes and should be available in pharmacies within months. The company did not release information on the price of the product.

The device can't be used with an insulin pump, but the company is planning improvements that will allow that.

"The pros of the new device are that it is a 10-day wear, it is low-profile and that no calibration needed," said Dr. Carol Levy, director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center in New York City. "The cons of the device are that is has no alerts for either high or low BG levels for patients with hypo-unawareness, which could be a challenge. It also requires a separate receiver to view data -- other systems on the market can have data viewed on the smart phone."