A woman tests her blood sugar level as part of her management of diabetes. Modest weight loss won't lower the risk for a heart attack or stroke in people with diabetes, according to a new study.(Photo: David Proeber, AP)
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It may be OK to buy certain items pre-owned, such as clothes and cars, but during National Diabetes Awareness Month, a doctor is warning patients about purchasing diabetes test strips that may have been previously used or expired.
Jennifer Trednick first learned she had type 1 diabetes when she was young. "At the age of 13," she said. For all these years, she has to check her blood sugar level. She does this eight times per day.
Trednick uses a diabetes test strip. She pricks her finger and her blood glucose testing meter measures her blood sugar so she knows what type of medicine and or food she can or cannot have throughout the day. It's an essential step for many diabetics.
"If someone were to get a reading of 70, what if their blood sugar were actually 30? They could pass out, go into a coma and never recover from that coma," Trednick explained.
She gets these strips at her local pharmacy. They typically cost around a dollar per strip, which adds up. But these strips help keep her alive. That's why she's so fired up about something that's been popping up around town.
"When I saw the signs, it's shocking to me," she said.
After just a few minutes of driving, we found three of these signs, offering cash for diabetes test strips. There are also ads on Craigslist, and thousands of listings for these strips on eBay.
Dr. J. Gary Evans of Northeast Florida Endocrine & Diabetes Associates said there are too many variables involved that make secondary market strips a dangerous choice for patients.
"Without accuracy, safety goes out the windows. If you're dealing with the black market, all oversight is lost there. Whether those strips have been staying in someone's car in the heat, whether they've been kept in frigid temperatures, suddenly that changes the dynamics of the accuracy of those strips," he said.
In addition to possibly buying open, used or expired strips, you could also unknowingly be buying a brand of strips that were recalled. The bottom line: inaccurate readings could mean life or death for someone with diabetes.
"Absolutely, we see patients in the hospital and in the office, but in the hospital everyday that either have been taking too much medicine. Whether that was misguided due to inaccurate testing is always up for speculation," Dr. Evans explained.
It is important to note, according to the FDA, it is not illegal to resell test strips. But it is against the law to sell expired strips.
The FDA recommends you only buy strips that are not expired, and only buy them if it is clear nobody has tampered with the packaging. The agency also warns against using strips that are not stored at the proper temperature. The FDA advises you should only buy strips from a reputable source.
A First Coast News producer called the company posting these signs in Jacksonville. Before he could even ask if they would buy expired strips, they told him the strips must be at least six months out from expiring.
We then called the company to request an interview. A representative said they are doing nothing wrong and nothing illegal. They would not go on-camera or talk with First Coast News in a recorded phone interview.
Now, patients like Trednick are trying to help warn people in Jacksonville about the pitfalls of buying strips from companies that resell them.
"They could be used, and that is the biggest risk with this because who would want to risk receiving a blood-borne infection or illness?" she said.
If you need diabetes strips but don't have the money, there are resources in town that may be able to help with the costs if you qualify. Visit We Care Jacksonville. You can also call them at (904) 253-1640.
For more about World Diabetes Day and Diabetes Awareness Month, visit North Florida's chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
First Coast News