A 'Gray Market' For Diabetes Supplies Highlights The Cost of Care
When Tim Rushing turned 50 last year, his doctor called him in for a check-up. They did a physical, ran some tests, and found out that Rushing had Type 2 diabetes.
“No surprises there,’ Rushing says. “Both my parents are Type 2 diabetics.”
He knew from watching his parents that monitoring his blood sugar would be essential to managing the disease. What Rushing didn’t realize was how much that monitoring would cost.
Turns out, it’s a lot.
Depending on the type of diabetes, diabetics check their blood sugar anywhere from one to eight times a day. It’s a ritual they know well: prick your finger, draw a little blood and place it on a disposable plastic test strip that gets read by a meter. One test, one strip.
America’s 21 million diabetics spend close to $4 billion dollars every year on test strips. Because of their price, though — a single strip can cost over $1 — an informal, “gray” market has emerged where diabetics like Rushing can buy the strips more cheaply, but without oversight from the Food and Drug Administration.
A Fraction of the Price
Rushing wanted to test frequently, hoping to manage his blood sugars that way. But his insurance only covered one test a day. Additional strips would cost him $1 each, cash. At the rate he used them, that would add up to $180 a month.
“So I started looking online and found I could get a box of 50 test strips on Amazon for 12 bucks,” Rushing says. That comes out to about 25 cents a strip, a fraction of the price.
“That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I’ve never even filled my prescription,” he Continue reading