I was sitting in a McDonald’s parking lot waiting for a man named Marcus to meet me so I could sell a box of 50 test strips. I arranged this meeting by calling a phone number that I saw on a road-side sign that said “Ca$h Paid For Diabetic Strips.”
When I called the number, I wasn’t greeted with a company name but just by a woman who identified herself as “Stephanie” and told me that there was no physical building for me to drop off the strips, but rather a courier would be sent to me.
I could sell the box of One Touch strips that I purchased for $10 on my private insurance to this unnamed company for $20. And this same box of strips will sell for $40 or more online As I signed a receipt on the trunk of Marcus’ car, he pulled out a wad of cash and peeled off a $20 bill for me. He examined the box — they only buy unexpired and sealed boxes of strips and lancets.
It is not illegal for companies to buy and sell test strips like this — although the companies are required to register with the FDA and many fail to do so. The seller makes a little cash, and the buyer gets a nice discount, so everybody wins, right?
Take the case of a woman who doesn’t have health insurance and was diagnosed with pre-diabetes six months ago. She told me buys her testing supplies online because she spends about $75 for 100 strips through an online retailer that she found through a Google search. If she purchased the same strips at a pharmacy, she’d pay about $125.
A slow economy and high unemployment rate has been bad for many Americans, and that is certainly true for people for diabetics. Those who receive test strips for free or highly discounted using Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance and sell them to companies that will resell them to uninsured or underinsured people at a price that is still lower than retail price.
But David Winmill, a nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator says, “Patients need to question the integrity of the products they are buying online — It’s impossible to guarantee that the strips purchased from a third-party were maintained in a certain environment.”
Besides, patients can apply for prescription savings programs like Together Rx Access or the national Partnership for Prescription Assistance program, which offer discounts on many different brand-name and generic prescription products at the pharmacy.
Beyond test strip savings, patients in need can also apply for assistance from a handful of companies that make their drugs. These include Lilly Cares for discounts on Humalog insulin; Novo Nordisk’s Cornerstones4care program for Levemir and Novolog insulin; and Sanofi’s Patient Connection for Lantus and Apidra. Additional options for savings on diabetes meds can be found here.