January 9, 2020
More than 50% of people with diabetes in the USA use an underground diabetes market to find lower cost or free insulin and other supplies to care for their condition, according to a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology (JDST). Activities include underground diabetes donations or trading supplies with family, friends and strangers, and participants include people with health insurance.
Researchers from the University of Utah Health conducted an online survey of 159 people with diabetes and their caregivers focused on different types of underground exchange activities for insulin and other diabetes supplies. Results indicated that survey participants engaged in donating diabetes medicines (56%), receiving donated goods (34%), trading (24%), borrowing (22%) and purchasing (15%) diabetes supplies. Many of the survey participants took part in more than one kind of transaction. Online platforms that offer free or low-cost diabetes supplies include Craigslist, e-Bay and social media message boards, according to the authors.
The reason for all this underground trading is clear: the list price of insulin surged more than 250 percent over the past 10-years — despite being discovered almost 100 years ago. The three largest manufacturers are accused of putting profits over people with diabetes, and their plans to offer discounts for the drug have failed.
“In some cases, people have to go to extreme measures and find a network that can supply their healthcare needs,” said Michelle Litchman, lead author of the study, in a press release published by the University of Utah.