Diabetic testing supplies such as blood glucose test strips can be expensive. You can save money by using these tips to find discounted and free test strips.
We recently discovered a new source for finding discounted blood glucose test strips. A word of caution though, these strips are not sold through “authorized” stores or dealers. They generally fall into the category of being a grey-market product. Not illegal, but definitely not a source that diabetic test supplies manufacturers would want you buying them from.
The “secondary” market for diabetes test supplies like blood glucose test strips can most easily be found on auction sites such as eBay. Yes, THAT eBay. The discounts can be substantial. You can find new boxes of test strips at discounts of anywhere from 25% to as much as 90% less than you would expect to pay for them at a pharmacy. They may even be cheaper than making a co-pay when buying them through a prescription drug plan. There is no shortage of these dealers on auction sites today, although that could change at any time.
What’s the Catch?
By now, you are probably wondering what the catch is, and why some no-name company on eBay can offer steeper discounts than a superstore or mega-pharmacy like Wal-Mart? The answer to this question is unfortunately not all that simple, but here we’ll do our best to explain it.
First of all, you are definitely taking a chance by dealing with any new company, especially on eBay. There are outright crooks and criminals willing to take your money and give you little or nothing in return. Your chances of being a victim of fraud are certainly much greater than if you dealt with a name-brand pharmacy, but using a combination of your credit card’s ability to chargeback fraudulent transactions and eBay’s purchase protection guarantee should leave you much safer than you would be otherwise.
To be sure, most of the retailers on auction sites are not crooks, nor are they selling products that do not work. What they are selling is test strips that you would not normally be able to purchase at your local pharmacy. The reason? Many of them are very close to, or past, their printed expiration date. Do such test strips still work? Maybe. Read on.
Diabetic Test Strips: Living On the Edge
So, do expired test strips work? Sometimes. At least one well-known brand I have used has not worked with expired test strips at all. In fact, just inserting one into my meter caused the blood glucose meter itself to stop working, and I had to contact the company for a replacement. Other brands might not have such rigid “penalties” for using expired test strips, but you should be warned that using expired strips is a crap shoot at best.
However, the majority of discounted blood test strips being sold today are not expired, but rather closer to the expiration date than most authorized retailers would care for. When products get close to their expiration dates, retailers often dump these products on the market at a substantial discount. There are a number of wholesalers who openly solicit pharmacies for stocks of products close to their expiration dates, and that is how most of these diabetes test supplies end up on auction sites such as eBay.
Do these products work? In the vast majority of cases, the answer is yes. When searching for products such as test strips that are sold at a discount on auction sites, be sure to note the expiration dates listed and calculate whether you will be able to use all of them before they expire. Since most boxes contain 50 or 100 blood glucose testing strips, most diabetics should be able to go through a supply of these in a matter of weeks, well before many of them are set to expire.
You Get What You Pay For… Sometimes
As a general rule, the closer test strips are to their expiration date, the steeper the discount on them will be. Don’t expect to order a box that expires in two weeks and receive it in plenty of time to use them all, is our best advice. Make sure to take shipping time into consideration when ordering and you should be able to save a considerable amount of money on test strips that are of the same quality you would be able to obtain at your local pharmacy.
Other Sources of Discounted Test Strips
To be sure, products with short expiration dates are not the only sources that companies have for obtaining discounted test strips. Another source you will run into are samples that are generally given-away for free at Doctor’s offices. For whatever reason, Doctors sometimes end-up with too many free samples. Other offices dump their supplies when going out of business or for various other reasons. These products are generally marked “Not For Retail Sale”. This doesn’t mean that the products are not of equal quality to that you will find in stores. They simply were never meant to be sold on the retail market. Generally speaking, as long as they are unopened and have not been stored in adverse conditions, these products should work just as well as their retail counterparts. Again, be sure to check expiration dates and take them into account before ordering. If no expiration date is listed in the ad, be sure to contact the seller before buying anything.
Another source often used to obtain test strips on the secondary market are test strips that were made for export outside of the United States. These should be dealt with much more carefully than those with short expiration dates or samples, since they may not be compatible with your existing blood glucose meter. They may even break it. Often, you can find test strips with packaging that is in either Spanish or French which are actually made to be sold domestically in the United States or Canada. These are generally safe to use, since the markets in U.S. and Canada are usually compatible. The language difference may be more for marketing purposes or due to government regulations (for example, products made for sale in Quebec) rather than denoting any difference it quality.
Finally, there is a remote chance that you may run across counterfeit test strips, which would likely be imported from Asia (China, most likely). Blood glucose test strips are not all that easy to counterfeit, so we have not seen much of a problem in this area thus far. Although test strips are expensive items, they are not expensive enough to the point where it has become economically viable to mass produce them in the third-world while keeping ahead of counter-security measures taken by test strip manufacturers to outwit counterfeiters. So, for now at least, consumers and manufacturers are pretty safe from any threat posed by counterfeit test strips.
Free Diabetic Test Strips?
So, are there sources of FREE test strips for diabetics? Sometimes. The best source is to ask your Doctor. They are often given free samples by pharmaceutical reps. Another source are PPA (Patient Assistance) Programs offered from drug companies. These, and a number of other sources, are available on our page Free Diabetes Test Supplies and Diabetic Testing .