People affected by diabetes received some good news this week when Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Assembly Bill (AB) 602 into law. The law, which takes effect immediately, helps protect the health and safety of patients with diabetes by prohibiting pharmacies from selling or distributing counterfeit or improperly stored test strips and glucose meters.
Sara Radcliffe, President and CEO of the California Life Sciences Association, the organization that spearheaded the bill, stated AB 602 is “an important measure to help ensure patients can trust the source of their diabetes testing supplies in California. By ensuring that pharmacies can only submit insurance claims for diabetes test devices purchased from authorized distributors, AB 602 will protect patients and save money for Medi-Cal, Medicare, and the overall healthcare system.”
The bill authorizes the State Board of Pharmacy to forbid licensed pharmacies and pharmacists from selling or dispensing diabetes test devices that were not purchased directly from an approved manufacturer or an authorized distributor. The law also makes it unprofessional conduct for a licensee to purchase devices from unauthorized distributors or to seek reimbursement for devices that were not purchased from authorized sources.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sellers have been marketing pre-owned or secondhand test strips (unused test strips previously owned by someone else) to consumers—creating big business on both the black and gray markets. Because the devices and strips are pre-owned, they can be sold at a lower cost. Sellers have been promoting business by posting flyers in neighborhoods, in online ads, and even on billboards, both selling and promising to buy the devices.
Although saving money sounds like a good idea (glucose meters and test strips can be expensive), buying pre-owned strips can have life-altering—or even deadly—consequences.
- If you buy pre-owned strips, you don’t know if they were stored properly. They can also be expired. A lack of proper storage or using expired strips could put you at risk for getting incorrect results from your glucose meter. And incorrect results can put you at risk for serious health complications—and even death.
- Test strip vials that have been opened by another person may have small amounts of blood on them, which can put you at risk for infection.
- Pre-owned test strip vials may have been tampered with, which means that they may not be safe to use. (For instance, the expiration dates might have been changed or covered up.)
- Pre-owned strips also may not have been cleared by the FDA for sale in the United States. (If instructions aren’t in English or the strips look different than other strips of the same brand, this can be a sign of unsafe strips.)
For information on how to use your glucose meter and test strips safely, visit the FDA’s Consumer Updates Page. To verify the license of a pharmacist, visit the California State Board of Pharmacy here.