Digital Exclusive: Insulin sales found on Craigslist

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AVOCA, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Nowadays you can buy pretty much everything online like shoes, contacts, and according to a study published last week in the Journal of American Medical Association, you can even buy insulin.

Researchers took a closer look at the unregulated sale of three prescription drugs, insulin, albuterol, and epinephrine, found online on Craigslist.

“I was surprised reading the JAMA article, how prevalent the sale of drugs on Craigslist is,” Dr. Tina George, family doctor for Commonwealth Health, said.

Eyewitness News spoke with Dr. George about why people might want to buy insulin from Craigslist.

“A lot of what would motivate a patient to go looking for a third-party source for their medication is cost. Insulin is exorbitantly expensive. Even the most affordable options are still sometimes difficult to afford and it’s not a drug that you can go without should you need it,” Dr. George said.

In the study, researchers found 327 advertisements for insulin being sold across the county on Craigslist. They found that analogue insulin on average sold for $30 per unit on the resale site, while it sold for $400 on drugs.com.

George says one might assume buying drugs from Craigslist is safe, especially if the drug is what a patient uses and its packaging is intact, but in reality, it could be the opposite.

“That said, insulin is a sensitive drug. It needs to be refrigerated. You can’t guarantee the way you could from the pharmacy, that it’s been refrigerated. If it hasn’t been, it’s likely to be far less effective which could alter your dose,” Dr. George said.

Dr. George says it’s also possible insulin vials could be tampered with and diluted. An altered dose could lead to too much insulin in the system or not enough.

Insulin helps our body process sugar needed for energy. It’s prescribed to patients with diabetes who don’t process sugar normally. Dr. George says there could be severe effects of having the wrong dosage of insulin.

“You could go to a severe hypoglycemic coma if you were to develop an adverse reaction like a too low blood sugar,” Dr. George said.

She says it could even lead to death. Dr. George says while the prevalence of prescription drug sales on Craigslist is shown in the study.

“I’ve never had anybody buy it from a third party. I do have patients that don’t want to tell me they can’t afford it,” Dr. George said.

Dr. George advises patients to discuss their financial abilities to pay for such prescription drugs with their healthcare providers.

“It’s important to bring it up because it allows us to prioritize cost as an issue which we might not do otherwise,” Dr. George said.

It’s important to note buying and selling prescription medication is prohibited by law and Craigslist policy.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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