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FDA warns against secondhand test strips

A finger pressing down on a test strip device.

May 3, 2019—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is sounding an alarm against previously owned home test strips like those used for testing blood sugar or for dosing warfarin. Its warning: Don't use them.

You can buy these secondhand test strips online—they're easy to get. Sometimes you can buy directly from the seller. Either way, they have dangerous downsides.

Beware the side effects

Secondhand test strips may give inaccurate results because they've been tampered with, expired or stored improperly. And inaccurate results can put you at risk for serious—and even deadly—health complications.

In addition, test strip vials may be contaminated with small amounts of blood from a past owner, exposing you to a possible infection.

FDA also cautions against using test strips not authorized for sale in the U.S. They haven't been reviewed by the agency and may pose safety risks.

Learn the red flags

These are all tip-offs that test strips are secondhand or not authorized for sale in this country:

  • The packaging (a box or vial) has been opened.
  • The packaging looks discolored or shows signs of use.
  • The expiration date is scratched off or changed.
  • The seller isn't requiring a prescription even though you typically need one.
  • The instructions aren't in English.

If you can't afford to buy brand-new test strips, tell your doctor or pharmacist. There may be financial assistance programs to help you. Some test strip manufacturers also offer coupons or prescription cards to lower the cost.

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