RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — You’ve probably seen the roadside signs on just about every corner here in Central Virginia that read, “cash for diabetic test strips.”
It may seem like a get rich quick scheme, but cash for diabetic testing strips is a growing industry with signs, websites, Facebook posts and craigslist ads all offering quick quotes for your test strips.
Cynthia Cupp, a Type 1 diabetic, told 8News that testing strips are a lifeline for her. She says the readings she get determines what she eats and what she can or can’t do for the day.
“I test my glucose levels 8 to 10 times a day,” she explained. “My life depends on them.”
Cupp’s doctor monitors her recorded readings from those strips to adjust insulin and medication, so she’s baffled by anyone selling their strips.
“I need all of my strips, so I would not even consider selling them,’” Cupp said.
8News met another woman named Diesha who owns Simple Solutions At Home. She buys test strips here in Virginia and then resells them at a fraction of the retail cost.
“I would pay up to 60 dollars for a box on 100 count Accu-check,” Diesha said. “I resell online and I also have regular buyers that are out of state.”
In Central Virginia alone, 8News found dozens of others like her offering anywhere from 10 to 65 bucks a box, depending on count and brand.
“The reason that we do this is to help those who can’t afford the health insurance,” Diesha said.
Katie Sundt, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator with Bon Secours, says retail prices can be as much as one to $2 a strip.
“Without a prescription they can be very pricey,” she said.
For example: That 100 count Accu-check box Diesha pays $60 for can retail for as much as $180 a box.
8News wanted to know if this buy and resale practice was even legal. We found that it is for most, however, if you’re selling test strips you got through Medicare or Medicaid, that could be considered insurance fraud.
“We do not accept Medicare strips,” Diesha said, explaining there’s a code on the box that she looks for to make sure the strips weren’t obtained from Medicare or Medicaid.
What about the safety of secondhand strips? The FDA gave 8News the following statement:
“While it is technically legal to buy and sell blood glucose test strips from consumers under certain conditions, the FDA does not encourage this practice due to concerns about the safety.”
When we called around, most buyers like Diesha were very specific about how they’re packaged. They won’t accept strips that have expired or boxes that have been opened.
Still, the FDA and health providers like Sundt fear some might be shortchanging their health not testing as often as they should in return for some quick cash.
For those who turnaround and buy from the underground market, Sundt wonders, ‘what are they really getting?’
“Even if they test strips are unopened, not expired, if they have been exposed to extreme hot or cold temperatures that can damage the test strips and therefore effect the accuracy of results a person is going to get at home,” Sundt said.
Blindness and kidney problems are just some of the complications. Still the road sign business is booming; Diesha and her crew are about to expand into Maryland.
There are assistance programs and organizations that help with the cost of diabetic test strips. Here are some other resources that may help: