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Many Turn to Craigslist For Lifesaving Drugs

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J.Adderton has 27 years experience as a BSN, MSN .

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Why Are Diabetics Risking Safety to Purchase Medications Off Craigslist?

According to a new study, people are turning to Craigslist as an affordable solution for life-saving medications. While the drugs may be cheaper, substituting Craigslist for you drugstore is risky, raising serious safety concerns. Read on to learn more about the study and eye opening findings.

Many Turn to Craigslist For Lifesaving Drugs
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Most of us have likely searched for a bargain on an internet forum, like eBay or Craigslist. But, what about costly medications that are necessary for your health? A new study, published this month on JAMA Online, shows just how difficult it is for some patients to afford medications for their chronic illnesses. Researchers found hundreds of ads that had been placed on Craigslist for insulin and asthma inhalers over a 12 day period in June 2019.

What Sparked the Idea?

Dr. Jennifer Goldstein, the lead study author with The Value Institute of ChristianaCare in Delaware, got the idea after reading a news article about someone buying medications on Craigslist.  With her curiosity peaked, Dr. Goldstein performed a quick internet search and was surprised to find multiple listings for unregulated drug sales.

Study Details

The study looked at Craigslist ads, across all 50 U.S. states, over a 12-day period. Researchers found ads for insulin and albuterol inhalers in 240 cities in 31 states. Insulin was advertised with steep discounts, including one ad priced at $37, a fraction of the nearly $300 Humalog retail price.

Insulin Price Hike

According to the CDC, more than 100 million adults in the U.S. are diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. People with type 1 diabetes do not make insulin in the body and can’t survive without insulin injections. Those with type 2 diabetes do not make enough and face serious complications without the insulin they need. For diabetics, insulin is a life-saving medication that is becoming more difficult to afford.

Here is a cost comparison of insulin types, for Q2 2019, according to GoodRx:

Regular Insulins

  • Novolin R- $93 per vial
  • Humulin R- $185 per vial

NPH Insulins

  • $92 to $183 per vial

Rapid Acting Insulins

  • Generic lispro- $180 per vial
  • Humalog- $322 per vial

Long Acting Insulins

  • Levemir- $397 per vial
  • Lantus- $340 per vial

Some people ration their insulin doses to make medication bills more affordable.  This is a dangerous practice since uncontrolled glucose levels can increase the risk of infections, kidney and eye problems, amputations and even death.

Asthma Inhalers

Researchers found that asthma inhalers were actually more expensive to buy on Craigslist.  An albuterol inhaler retailed at $25 and was sold on Craigslist for $44 on average. Researchers were unable to determine why they were sold for a higher price on Craigslist.

Could It Be…

Rescue inhalers are a lifeline for someone with chronic respiratory problems experiencing wheezing and shortness of breath?

The decision to purchase inhalers illegally may be a decision based on issues surrounding access to healthcare services (cost, lack of transportation etc.).  Perhaps some people choose this option because they are unable to access healthcare for a legitimate prescription.

Motivation to Sell

Researchers found that a sense of goodwill was one motivation for sellers to list medications on Craigslist. One seller said, “I have been blessed with an overabundance of insulin and know what it’s like to need it and not have a couple of hundred dollars to pay out of pocket”. Others were looking to make enough money to buy new medications after their doctor made changes to their current prescriptions.

Just Not Safe

Dr. Goldstein warns buying drugs through Craigslist “is just not a safe way to get medications”. Safety concerns include:

  • Insulin that has not been kept in the refrigerator or used within a month after reaching room temperature
  • Whether or not the insulin is sterile
  • Whether or not the medication has been altered or tampered with
  • It is illegal to sell prescription medications without a license
  • It is illegal to purchase medications without a prescription

Let Us Hear From You

Dr. Goldstein warns that Craigslist is not the only online forum where medications are being sold.  Is this a problem or emerging concerns in your area of practice?


For More Information

Unregulated Sales of Insulin Common on Craigslist

Many People with Diabetes Can't Afford 'Good' Insulin. What They Should Know About Switching to the Cheaper Stuff

 

J. Adderton MSN has over 20 years’ experience in clinical leadership, staff development, project management and nursing education.

7 Followers; 117 Articles; 33,919 Profile Views; 380 Posts

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Daisy4RN has 20 years experience and specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg.

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People have been sharing drugs for a very long time. When I worked HH and would go to retirement type homes, mobile home parks, apts etc it was common place for people to have get togethers to exchange/trade meds. In some cases I can see the benefit to this, not being wasteful, saving money, helping others who would otherwise not be able to obtain needed meds. Obviously this is risky and especially with open vials etc but people do what they have to do and I dont blame them. When I first worked in the hospital we had a small frig where we kept the unit Insulin (vial was used for all patient), wiped it down with alcohol and never once saw any problems even with immunocompromised Onc pts. Then came regulations that each pt needed their own vial. So hospital spends way more money for Insulin, then when pt goes home (of course) we cannot give them the Insulin. So pts, including low income people go home and have no choice but to find alternatives. Wasteful and sad!

Edited by Daisy4RN
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J.Adderton has 27 years experience as a BSN, MSN.

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Thanks for sharing.  Such a great point about not sending insulin home with patients at discharge.  

 

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hope3456 is a ASN, RN and specializes in LTC, Psych, M/S.

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It's a symptom of a bigger problem and yes, there is some risk, but this practice is probably helping more people than it hurts.  

Edited by hope3456

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On 2/22/2020 at 5:17 AM, J.Adderton said:

Thanks for sharing.  Such a great point about not sending insulin home with patients at discharge.  

 

They or their insurance has paid for that insulin.  Send it home with them.

This article points out what backward idiocy we put up with in my beloved America.  We need to come of age with regard to health care and medication.  We need to join the rest of the modern world that does not force people to choose between having their meds plus decent health care and eating or having a roof over their heads.

It's really greedy to deny people the right to these basic things.

On 2/21/2020 at 3:20 PM, Daisy4RN said:

People have been sharing drugs for a very long time. When I worked HH and would go to retirement type homes, mobile home parks, apts etc it was common place for people to have get togethers to exchange/trade meds. In some cases I can see the benefit to this, not being wasteful, saving money, helping others who would otherwise not be able to obtain needed meds. Obviously this is risky and especially with open vials etc but people do what they have to do and I dont blame them. When I first worked in the hospital we had a small frig where we kept the unit Insulin (vial was used for all patient), wiped it down with alcohol and never once saw any problems even with immunocompromised Onc pts. Then came regulations that each pt needed their own vial. So hospital spends way more money for Insulin, then when pt goes home (of course) we cannot give them the Insulin. So pts, including low income people go home and have no choice but to find alternatives. Wasteful and sad!

It deeply makes me angry.

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Daisy4RN has 20 years experience and specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg.

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On 2/25/2020 at 7:43 AM, Kooky Korky said:

They or their insurance has paid for that insulin.  Send it home with them.

This article points out what backward idiocy we put up with in my beloved America.  We need to come of age with regard to health care and medication.  We need to join the rest of the modern world that does not force people to choose between having their meds plus decent health care and eating or having a roof over their heads.

It's really greedy to deny people the right to these basic things.

It deeply makes me angry.

IMO, it is a combo of greed, over regulation, and and our hyper litigious society. I have been angry also, I know a pt has (already paid for) medication, is headed down to pharmacy to obtain the exact same medication (that they cant afford), but per p/p I cannot give them the (their!) left over meds. There is something wrong here!

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BeenThereGoingThere has 40 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Critical Care and Community Health. Dabbled in Cor.

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I would like to add that an albuterol inhaler runs $125 dollars with my insurance.  I wish it was $25.  

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Floridasunnurse has 22 years experience as a RN.

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It should be $ 25. And this is what I believe is called built in marketing. Sell,sell,sell. 

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For us nurses, it involves two things: Medicaid fraud (or insurance fraud) because the insurance company is paying for the meds or supplies for a particular patient,  not the neighbor over the fence. Also, what is the lot# and expiration date? If the person on the other side of the fence gets an adverse reaction, who's to blame? And what if the strength or dose of the med is wrong. As for nursing documentation, well we'll just keep this as our little secret from the board of nursing. 

I realize that sometimes a patient ends up with extra, unused meds that will be thrown out, but there's a reason why everything is regulated.

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