FDA Warns Against Secondhand Test Strips

Have you bought or traded test strips in a Facebook group or with a seller whose number was listed on a roadside sign? The FDA would like you to stop.

On May 16th, the FDA put out a consumer’s bulletin urging people to no longer buy or sell secondhand test strips. While the agency concedes that there is nothing illegal about the practice, it warned that using secondhand strips could lead to inaccurate blood sugar readings and possibly expose consumers to bloodborne pathogens.

In the bulletin, the agency argued:

  • Second-hand strips could have been stored incorrectly or be expired
  • An opened test strip vial could have traces of someone else’s blood on it
  • A previous owner might have tampered with the test strips
  • The strips may be from another country, which opens the possibility that they are not cleared by the FDA for use

Of course, people with diabetes don’t turn to secondhand test strips purely on a whim. They may choose to buy diabetes products on the secondhand market because they can’t afford the strips any other way. Some with diabetes have reported butting up against test strip limits imposed by insurance policies. Those who turn to secondhand test strips consider the alternative, testing less, more dangerous.

The FDA doesn’t address these issues, however. The agency’s job is to regulate drugs and medical devices, and to give consumers information on how to use medical devices and prescription drugs safely. Since the FDA didn’t move to outlaw secondhand sales of test strips, it is now up to the consumer to decide whether the benefits of secondhand test strips outweigh the risks.

Have you bought diabetes supplies or insulin secondhand? What has been your experience? You can send your thoughts to me at

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Craig Idlebrook is a past editor for Insulin Nation, Type 2 Nation, and Información Sobre Diabetes. He is now the community engagement and content manager for T1D Exchange.

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