Saturday, May 22, 2010

Not Going Broke in an Emergency

Here's a tip for anyone who gets a diagnosis that requires maintenance medication that doesn't have a clear and consistent dosage: Make sure your doctor has either written the prescription to reflect that fact, or that (s)he is totally confident they've prescribed enough for that 30 days.

My doctor initially wrote all of my prescriptions as 30 day supplies, but I ran out of blood glucose test strips long before 30 days... and my insurance refused to refill it even when she revised the prescription.

Buying test trips out-of-pocket is expensive.  My copay for 100 strips was less than $30, but out-of-pocket for 50 of them was about $70... ON SALE!!!  (Freestyle Lite strips.  You can find them for less than that if you do some googling, but they're still a little pricy.)

Well, even that 50 I picked up while waiting to see if the insurance company would decide to cover my refill after the revision wasn't going to last once they gave us a final "no."  I wasn't about to shell out another $70 if I could find another option.

And, gosh, OK, fine, I found that other option at a store we all love to hate: Walmart.

I picked up a Relion Micro (a Walmart brand) glucose meter for $12 and a 50 pack of the corresponding strips for $20.  That's less than half of what I would have paid for a 50 pack of the Freestyle strips, and now I have a back-up meter if I ever lose or break my nice one.

Though the Relion Micro is a little more cheap looking than my Freestyle Freedom Lite, I'd done my research and found good reviews and posts about it, and found that the Relion Ultima (different model by the same company) was declared a "top pick" by Consumer Reports.  And while I say it looks a little cheap, I should also point out that the Micro is little and cute, and it comes with interchangeable colored faceplates!

Mine included a bold red option, so now I have a sexy little red glucose meter!

I bitch about Walmart sometimes, but it's times like this when I realize the value (haha) it must hold for people who who live patcheck to paycheck.  I could have gotten by with buying another pack for my pricy brand name strips, but some people could not.  And if you don't have insurance, this meter might be one of the best financial choices a diabetic could make.

I should point out that I also had the same prescription issue with the needles that go on my insulin pens.  Though I hadn't run out, I counted and knew I didn't quite have enough to make it until my refill.  Cue tons of research on whether or not reuse is safe...  And as it turns out, most people in forums said they reuse their needles once or twice and the ADA has recommendations on how to safely reuse needles:

Reusing syringes may help you cut costs, avoid buying large supplies of syringes, and reduce waste. However, talk with your doctor or nurse before you begin reusing. They can help you decide whether it would be a safe choice for you. If you are ill, have open wounds on your hands, or have poor resistance to infection, you should not risk insulin syringe reuse. Syringe makers will not guarantee the sterility of syringes that are reused.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when reusing syringes:
  • Keep the needle clean by keeping it capped when you're not using it.
  • Never let the needle touch anything but clean skin and the top of the insulin bottle.
  • Never let anyone use a syringe you've already used, and don't use anyone else's syringe.
  • Cleaning it with alcohol removes the coating that helps the needle slide into the skin easily
So I reused a few of my pen needles, and I was just very careful while removing the cap and putting it back on, making sure the needle touched nothing but my prepped skin.  I store the used  & capped needle in an empty glucose strip case, which is a very convenient size, and I make sure that I only reuse a needle for the same insulin as the first use.  I've been taking a look at the needle before reusing for any obvious issues, and I know there's no blockage since you have to push a little insulin out before you even set your dose.  I can't tell a difference in pain/comfort with that one reuse, though lots of people on forums said that more than two uses starts to hurt a little.  Those needles are so fine, they start to get dull just from passing through skin!

Also, on a related note, did you know that you don't need a prescription to buy regular insulin in the United States, except in Alaska?  It's just kept behind the pharmacy counter.  And apparently, it's not insanely expensive (someone on a forum said they got a vial for $22 at Walmart).  So if you were ever in a real bind but can scrape up a little cash, there's a way you might be able to get by.  (You should absolutely still talk to your doctor about how to use regular insulin before buying it, unless it's the kind you already use!)  Here's a chart that lays out the legality of buying insulin and syringes, by state.

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