General Question

LuckyGuy's avatar

Why is it legal for individuals to sell their diabetic test strips?

Asked by LuckyGuy (34609points) November 14th, 2012

I past several signs today tacked to telephone poles that said “We buy diabetic test strips.” and included a local cell phone number.
I looked online and found many ads like that. Here is an example.
Are people getting these strips for free as covered prescription items and then reselling them to the buyer so they can make a profit at taxpayer expense?
Why is that legal? How does the second buyer know the strips were always kept at the right temperature and stored properly? Weren’t these items prescribed to help people control their diabetes? I live in NY State. Is this even legal?

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12 Answers

CWOTUS's avatar

That sounds odd, all right.

Those strips – and testers – are sold over the counter in American pharmacies. I know, because I bought a tester and a couple of boxes of the test strips at a CVS for one of our people who was working overseas. He couldn’t get the product (or maybe he or his wife – she is a nurse – didn’t trust the quality of what was available locally) in Indonesia, so he asked me to pick it up for him when I traveled to the jobsite. Apparently he had high glucose readings, and his wife wanted to monitor his blood sugar, hence the request.

Since the testers and strips are hawked “for free” in American television commercials, I expect that you’re correct: people are getting the testers and strips (and maybe some of them are actual medical need, but sacrificed for cash), and just offering them for resale in some place where they’re not so readily available… maybe Indonesia, in fact. Or, since the things are “apparently free” to the recipients, it’s just simple arbitrage here in the USA. They can be resold to always undercut a “legitimate” price in drug stores.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I can’t find anything against it so far. I’ll keep looking.
Edit: Got it. It’s legal to sell any of them not covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Isn’t this encouraging people to take the strips, that are no doubt being charged to taxpayers one way or the other at 6x the price, and then resell them to make a profit?
I’m willing to bet the people who are getting these have medical coverage, most likely Medicaid, and don’t pay anything for them because they have a doctor’s prescription. . The buyer picks them up for a few dollars and sell them elsewhere.
If you don’t need test strips, you should not be getting them. This seems like blatant fraud to me.

And who is buying the repackaged strips? FDA says they are never to exceed 86 F, 30 C. How do they know the strips are still good?

LuckyGuy's avatar

@CWOTUS Do you remember what they cost at the drug store? What do you think Medicaid pays for a box? The online buying site gives prices they will pay.

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bookish1's avatar

@LuckyGuy: Without insurance, test strips cost about $1 each. Whoever is buying these not from a pharmacy is being stupid. But then again, type 2 diabetics can get away with being gullible and thoughtless, because their disease won’t kill them immediately if they are stupid.

sinscriven's avatar

It’s legal. The buyers are supposed to register with the FDA but many don’t. This black market exists because of the poor economy with diabetics trying to scrounge up a few pennies by selling their unused strips, and the pharma industry who is making money hand over fist by selling strips.

One of the most commonly prescribed meters is the OneTouch Ultra and their strips are among the most expensive in the market, something to the effect of $1.25 a strip. If you’re a T1 that tests six times a day and are in dire need of cash, the idea of selling your reserve strips sounds really appealing if you need an extra $200.

Uninsured, a box of 100 will cost you around $100–140 depending on the brand you need. I don’t know bout medicare but private insurance will try to starve you of strips as much as possible. I pay the highest co-pay on mine and only save like $10 off of retail price, and they don’t even let me have enough to test 3x a day.

You can test the quality of the strips by using a control solution, if the strips are compromised then the meter will tell you.

I’ve always felt like those reseller things are a bit shady too, I’d rather just give my strips away to someone who needs them.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@sinscriven I looked today and the signs are only posted near bus stops. How do I say this tastefully? In this area buses are not generally used by the well off. I would guess there is a higher concentration of people on Medicaid riding the bus than the general population.
I am guessing they get their strips either for free or heavily subsidized (most likely for free).

So, tell me, why so why would someone have 5 sealed boxes of unused strips? Are they supposed to be using them to check their “sugarbetes”?

This sounds like a Medicaid scam or ripoff to me.
Am I missing something?

bookish1's avatar

@LuckyGuy: If they are scammers, they are almost certainly type 2 diabetics. Meaning, if they go for a day, days, weeks, or months without testing, they’re not going to keel over and die, like a type 1 diabetic would. (I would probably croak in a week, either while driving or in my sleep, if I couldn’t check my blood sugar.) They are different diseases with the same name, and I feel impelled to make this distinction whenever I can, because type 1 is so rare and poorly misunderstood, and type 2 is rampant and easy to malign.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@bookish1 Thanks for helping explain this to me. Is it possible for someone to get a prescription for 6x per day or 180 strips per month (costing Medicaid $200) but only use 2 or 3 per day leaving 100 per month left over? Rather than not getting the prescription filled the following month (they have enough to last the month), they refill it again, since they walk away with $10 in their pocket for every one they sell to the buyer. At the end of the year they tested themselves about 1000 times and made $120 tax free. The reseller made $480 and Medicaid paid out $2400 – half of it actually being used for the patient.

With a little searching I found that the US spends $8 Billion per year on test strips. I wonder what percentage of them are resold.

sinscriven's avatar

@LuckyGuy : I see them on freeway offramps and other high traffic places like that. I don’t think the kind of people who are in that business have that refined knowledge of target marketing and placement.

As to why they may have so many extra strips, I’m guessing that they are provided with a ton of extra strips then they might think they need. Since Type Is are incredibly dependent on active monitoring their rate of usage varies, and/or they could be rationing strips.

Also a possibility is that they switched meter brands, and then you’re stuck with hundreds worth of strips that are now useless.

I agree it’s shady, but what’s the alternative, it’s not easy to limit the amount of strips they get to keep from overstocking because it’s far more dangerous to have too little strips than too much. if you want to look at the silver lining, people who are uninsured and can’t afford retail price can get a good deal. it’s like trickle down single payer healthcare :p

LuckyGuy's avatar

@sinscriven “It’s like trickle down single payer healthcare.” I’ll have to remember that expression.
That would not necessarily be a bad thing if the money stayed within the system.
In this case the illegitimate middle man is making a pile off this. He is selling them for 5x what he pays and sells them for roughly half price. There is no assurance the strips were stored correctly or at the right temperature.

Can we resell our unused aspirin? Or prescription meds that we don’t use? I’m guessing the patients are taking as many strips as they can because they are free and there is no incentive for them to be conservative.

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