One of the best known brands in diabetes gear is FreeStyle, made by Abbott Diabetes Care. Traditional fingerstick glucose meters and test strips have been their bread and butter for more than two decades, long before the company launched its innovative FreeStyle Libre “flash” continuous glucose monitor in the United States in 2017.
Abbott’s FreeStyle Lite fingerstick glucose meters (two models) and the long-established FreeStyle Lite test strips have been available in the United States for many years, recognizable by the little butterfly displayed on the boxes and on each individual test strip.
DiabetesMine has compiled this guide to FreeStyle Lite products in the United States: key features, pros and cons, accuracy, user feedback, and where to buy.
Available since 2007, this is one of the top-selling brands of glucose fingerstick meters available in the United States.
It’s fairly small and portable, measuring 4.10 x 2.60 x 7.30 inches, and weighing just over 8 ounces. This meter takes the industry’s smallest blood sample sizes, just 0.3 microliters.
The FreeStyle Lite gives you a result in just 5 seconds. It stores up to 400 blood sugar results, and offers averages for the past 7, 14, and 30 days.
The meter turns on automatically when you put a test strip into the port on the bottom, and notably the FreeStyle Lite has both a display backlight and test strip port light to help you check your blood sugar at night or in dimly lit settings. You can control those lights by pushing the bottom button the front of the device. This meter uses a replaceable 3-volt lithium battery, which is labeled to last for roughly 500 tests.
This slightly-modified version of the basic FreeStyle Lite meter has been available since 2008.
It includes all of the same features of the main meter, and also requires the tiniest blood sample size of just 0.3 microliters.
The Freedom model is even more compact, at just 4 x 2 x 7 inches and weighing 4.8 ounces. It offers a larger display for an easier-to-read experience, but it does not have the backlight and port light that the main FreeStyle Lite model offers.
The FreeStyle Freedom model also uses a replaceable 3-volt lithium battery, but in this meter it lasts up to 1,000 tests.
The FreeStyle Freedom is also compatible with Abbott’s FreeStyle Auto-Assist and Libreview software for analyzing trends and creating reports.
First approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2007, FreeStyle Lite test strips introduced what is known as “ZipWik tabs” on each side of the strip, the pointy little part protruding from that dark half-circle where you apply the blood.
These tabs are designed to make blood absorption easier, so that when you touch a blood drop to the ZipWik tab, it breaks the blood surface and instantly sucks the blood into the strip. This means you don’t have to smear or scrape the blood onto the strip or switch sides to get the blood to register.
As noted, these meters require only a tiny blood drop, but if by chance you don’t apply enough blood the first time, there’s a 60-second window to apply more to complete the test on that same ZipWick tab of the test strip — helping you to avoid wasting test strips.
You’ll notice that the marketing for these test strips references “No Coding,” which means you don’t need to plug in any code numbers to identify the batch of test strips you’re using. This is pretty much industry standard now, but was a novelty at the time the FreeStyle Lite strips were first introduced.
You can buy these FreeStyle Lite test strips in most pharmacies and drug stores, as well as on Amazon and other online stores.
The short answer is yes.
In a 2018 study examining 18 different brands of meters and test strips, researchers from the nonprofit Diabetes Technology Society (DTS) found that FreeStyle Lite strips among the top 5 most accurate.
The DTS gold standard is that a meter and its test strips should yield readings within 15 percent or 15 mg/dL of the independent laboratory values at least 95 percent of the time. In several studies, only six brands passed that test for accuracy, and Abbott’s FreeStyle Lite strips were one of those, hitting that mark 96 percent of the time.
It’s important to note that real-life experience with test strip accuracy can vary. Readings can easily be skewed by testing with soiled fingers, extreme temperatures and other factors.
It’s also the case that through the years, FreeStyle meters and test strips have been the subject of several product recalls flagged by the FDA. In fact, one of the largest-ever diabetes recalls involved the FreeStyle and FreeStyle Flash meters and test strips back in 2014. Other companies have also made headlines and triggered safety notifications over the years, as these instances are not uncommon in the diabetes product space.
You can find the FreeStyle Lite meters and test strips in most pharmacies and drug stores, both local and online. The basic FreeStyle Lite meter is generally priced around $22 to $16, and the FreeStyle Freedom Lite meter runs about $15 to $21.
The test strips are packaged in vials of 50 counts, and there are options to buy a box of multiple vials of strips. Cash prices can vary dramatically depending on where you’re shopping, from $26 on Amazon to nearly $100 at large retail pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens.
As always, Your Insurance May Vary and it’s best to check with your particular plan to determine how many test strips per day they cover, and whether this brand is included in their preferred network.
These are popular products, despite some reviewers pointing to inaccurate readings.
The FreeStyle Lite meter with case gets an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon. Commenters say things like “Better than most (glucometers) because it requires so little blood” and “Easy and straightforward to use. Display is easy to read. Would purchase again.”
The FreeStyle Freedom Lite meter also gets an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with people noting that the display is “clear to see and accurate” and the system is “very easy to use, even for a newbie.”
The FreeStyle Lite test strips, too, get an average of 4.7 of 5 stars, in this case from more than 4,700 reviews on Amazon. People praised the ZipWick technology with comments like, “There is a drawing port along with the wick on either side of the strip which makes it easy to use for either hand. Even if you didn’t get enough blood to make the glucometer read, you have enough time (60 seconds I believe) to acquire another blood drop.”
A number of reviewers complained that these strips are a bit pricey compared to other glucose test strips on the market.
Abbott Diabetes Care currently offers two other fingerstick meters in the United States that sport the name FreeStyle. They each use Tproprietary test strips, named after the respective meters:
FreeStyle Precision Neo. This meter has been around since 2015, offered as a low-cost option with updated features and capabilities. It includes a larger touchscreen display with simple, easy-to-read icons and numbers, has a slim more rectangular design thinner than a AAA battery, and stores up to 1,000 readings in memory. You can read our DiabetesMine product review here.
FreeStyle InsuLinx. This meter has been around since 2012 and is aimed at including the ability to log insulin dosing log along with blood sugar readings. It has a touch screen and electronic logbook that records blood glucose results, insulin doses, pre- and post-meal markers, exercise, and more. This model was the subject of a product recall in 2013, but the issues were resolved, and it can still be purchased online from various retailers.
There are many other different brands of fingerstick glucose meters available too — from Accu-Chek, Contour, OneTouch, One Drop, and multiple off-brand generic meters available at retail and mail-order pharmacies.
FreeStyle Libre. Many people with diabetes are now opting to use a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) instead of a fingerstick meter. Abbott Diabetes Care has its own such system to offer: the Abbott FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitor. It requires users to wear a small sensor on their upper arm, and scan it with a separate handheld receiver or smartphone app in order to get a glucose reading. Read our DiabetesMine review of the FreeStyle Libre here.
The FreeStyle Lite meters and compatible test strips and are easy to use and have special wicking technology to make blood sugar checking an easy process. The meters are popular for their compact size and useful features. The strips can be costly, but are often covered by insurance plans and are widely available at pharmacies and online stores.