We’ve all seen the roadside signs or posters nailed to telephone poles. Unnamed sellers offer to buy unused test strips for people with diabetes. You may even see these supplies on online sites such as eBay, where test strips may be resold.
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What do they really offer? Inexpensive but unreliable, possibly unsafe blood glucose monitoring equipment and test strips.
“When you buy glucose meter kits and test strips from certified distributors, they have to pay attention to how they are stored and the expiration dates,” says endocrinologist Betul Hatipoglu, MD. “So there are multiple dangers when you buy from uncertified resellers.”
Dr. Hatipoglu cites a variety of potential health concerns. Strips purchased from these suppliers could have been stored improperly, exposing the strips to excessive heat or cold. This change in temperature causes damage to the testchil strips. Also, they may be expired or possibly even counterfeit. All of that means a higher chance of inaccurate test results if you use them.
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One example of a serious danger
Last year, Nova Max, one of the major manufacturers of test strips, issued a recall for defective test strips and meter kits. These products were reporting false, abnormally high blood glucose results. The company promptly notified all legitimate, registered users, health care professionals, pharmacies and distributors. The products were removed from legitimate sellers’ shelves.
Unregistered third-party resellers, however, did not receive a notice. That means they didn’t know they were supposed to remove the supplies from their inventories.
Having unreliable test strips represents a great potential danger to patients.
“When you get a low blood sugar reading, maybe you will just overeat, and your sugar might go up and that’s it,” Dr. Hatipoglu says. “But if you have a false high blood sugar result because of the unreliable test strip, you might take more insulin than you need, and you might get hypoglycemia and experience bad side effects. You can even die from hypoglycemia, so it’s a very serious matter.”
How do these strips become available this way?
The challenge is that these resellers can purchase the strips easily from individuals who are insured and can buy their sets for $10 each, then sell some for $20 each.
The resellers can then distribute the test strips online at cheaper prices than their typical retail price, say $40 or $50 rather than $75 or $100. So, they become an attractive alternative to patients with diabetes who are uninsured or underinsured.
But, again, you may enjoy some money savings, but no guarantee of quality or reliability.
“I highly recommend that patients not buy these, even though they might be cheaper and more convenient for them,” says Dr. Hatipoglu.
Are there any less expensive options?
Dr. Hatipoglu provides several recommendations for patients who need to find more affordable sources:
- Ask your physician for guidance.
- Contact your local office of the American Diabetes Association and ask where you can find reliable, cheaper supplies.
- Shop around at “big box” outlets that are certified suppliers.
Following these suggestions can lead to safer options for you, instead of entrusting your health to uncertified resellers of test strips.