ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) – Federal officials have expressed concerns to News 4 about the “grey market” local businesses use to pay cash for personal diabetic test strips then resell them.
News 4’s investigative team initiated an undercover operation after noticing signs offering to pay private individuals cash for unused diabetic strips posted in several north St. Louis and north St. Louis County neighborhoods. The ads also appeared to be on Craigslist and in the Thrifty Nickel.
Diabetics use the strips on a regular basis to test blood sugar levels.
After calling the number on the sign for one such company, “Cash For Diabetic Strips,” News 4 arranged to sell two boxes of strips to a buyer for the company.
News 4 purchased the strips new at a local Walgreens and later met the buyer in a St. Charles County parking lot. The buyer paid a News 4 producer $30 for a box that had cost $149, but would not pay any cash for another smaller box of strips which were a different brand. However, the buyer did offer to take that box as well, saying he would give them to someone who could use them.
The News 4 producer asked the buyer where the strips he bought came from. The buyer said many diabetics get more strips than they can use.
“You know I got people who call me because they cleaned out a companion’s closet,” he said. “I got people who call me every month when they get their prescription. They call when they get a prescription…The doctor will give them 100, they use 50.”
But, News 4 learned the strips could be coming from other sources as well.
News 4 interviewed a St. Louis County woman who called to complain that she was getting strips in the mail that she never ordered and that she didn’t need. She said when she called the company sending them to complain about it she was told the strips were being paid for by Medicare. She told News 4 she does not sell the strips to secondary market buyers.
The buyer for “Cash For Diabetic Strips” told News 4 some of the strips he buys are initially purchased with Medicare or Medicaid.
“A lot of people get them on Medicaid you know,” he said. “They only have a $5 copay and the pharmacy will send them anywhere from 100 to 200 a month. They only use 25 to 30 of them.”
News 4 asked Gerald Roy, special agent in charge for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the practice. Roy said diabetic test strips have created what he calls a “grey market” in St. Louis.
“Unfortunately it’s not a crime at this time,” Roy said. “Now that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious issues with this conduct.”
Roy said the agency’s number one concern is the health of diabetics receiving Medicare or Medicaid funded test strips.
He worries someone will sell them for a quick buck and jeopardize their own health.
The St. Charles woman who is the owner of “Cash For Diabetic Strips” told news 4 she had been buying and reselling strips to different organizations since 2012. The woman would not disclose specific names.
She said she would never knowingly buy diabetic strips paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.
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