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U.S. diabetes patients turn to 'black market' for medications, supplies – Montreal Gazette



Diabetes medications and blood-test supplies are sold, traded and donated on black markets because the U.S. health-care system isn’t meeting patients’ needs, a study shows. The price of insulin continues to increase, translating to $15 per day for the average user. Recent research indicates one in four people with diabetes ration their insulin because of the cost.

David Burns, 38, who has type 1 diabetes, prepares his insulin pen to inject himself in his home in North London on February 24, 2019. – Diabetics and insulin providers in Britain are stockpiling their precious medicine to avoid potential shortages in case Britain leaves the European Union without a deal in just over month’s time. Britain’s 3.7 million diabetics, which include Prime Minister Theresa May, depend almost entirely on insulin imports from continental Europe.


(Reuters Health) – Diabetes medications and blood-test supplies are sold, traded and donated on black markets because the U.S. healthcare system isn’t meeting patients’ needs, a study shows.

In a survey, about half of people who participated in these underground exchanges said they do it because they lack access to the proper medications and supplies to manage their diabetes, researchers report in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

“It is important for healthcare providers and policymakers to understand what people are doing to support diabetes management when faced with medication and supply access issues,” said study leader Michelle Litchman of the University of Utah College of Nursing in Salt Lake City.

The price of insulin continues to increase, translating to $15 per day for the average user, the study authors note. Recent research indicates that one in four people with diabetes ration their insulin due to cost, they add.

“While there are risks to using medications and supplies that are not prescribed to them, there are also risks to rationing or not taking medications or using supplies at all,” Litchman told Reuters Health by email.

In early 2019, the researchers surveyed 159 people who were involved in online diabetes communities, including patients and caregivers. They asked questions about underground exchange activities, access to healthcare and difficulty in purchasing diabetes items from standard sources.

More than half of the survey participants said they had donated medications or supplies, 35% received donations, 24% traded medications, 22% borrowed items and 15% purchased items. These exchanges took place among family, friends, co-workers, online acquaintances and strangers.

Overall, people who reported financial stress due to diabetes management were six times more likely to engage in underground exchanges and three times more likely to seek donations.

“The current healthcare situation in the United States is substandard for many people with chronic disease,” said Mary Rogers of the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, who wasn’t involved in the study.

“It is too costly. It is too slow. It is too complicated,” she said by email. “Failure to fix these problems leads to diabetic complications and unnecessary hospitalizations.”

Participants who donated medications felt compelled to give because they knew about the dire need of others, the study authors note. These respondents described a sense of duty and obligation to help. Others built up stockpiles that they donated, including insulin, pills, glucose strips, sensors and pump supplies.

Underground exchange could lead to several repercussions, including unanticipated side effects, complications of incorrect use, delay in seeking professional help and drug interactions, the authors caution. In addition, sharing and trading prescription medicines is illegal in the U.S. and other countries.

In this study, the researchers did not identify any adverse events, Litchman said.

Kebede Beyene of the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, who wasn’t involved in the study, told Reuters Health, “It seems that health professionals rarely ask patients about medicine sharing, trading or exchange, so it would make sense for health professionals to ask about medicines exchange during consultations and when dispensing medicines, particularly for high-risk medicines, such as diabetes medications, antibiotics and strong pain medications.”

“Patients can then be given information about the possible risks of taking someone else’s medicine or giving their prescribed medicines to another person,” Beyene said by email. “Community pharmacy practitioners are also in a unique position to educate about risks of medicine exchange.”

SOURCE: Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, online December 4, 2019.

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COVID-19 drives up demand for flu shots; N.S. to launch campaign later this week – CTV News Atlantic




With the colder winds of fall starting to blow, flu season will soon be on us again, but it seems scores of people are hoping to head off the sickness by getting a flu shot.

Unlike last year, when it was essentially pre-empted by COVID-19, experts say influenza will be back this year.

Just hours after getting a shipment and posting signage outside lineups started to form inside a north end Halifax pharmacy.

“We just got our flu shots, and people start showing up right away,” said pharmacist and store owner Ghada Gabr.

“I think this is going to be a lot of demand.”

It’s the same story a few blocks away, where pharmacist Greg Richard is expecting his first shipment of flu vaccine later this week.

With COVID-19 still around, customers like Kathy Lynch, who hasn’t had a flu shot in five years, is anxious to get one.

“I mean, I feel great. I’ve had no problem with either of the vaccinations, so, to put another layer on top is just the best thing, I think,” she said.

“People are eager to get their doses into them right off the bat,” said Richard. “They’re not looking to wait until November or December. So, I have a list of folks I’m going to reach out to as soon as they (the vaccines) arrive, and I anticipate to run through my stock pretty quickly.”

And it might very turn out to be the same thing across the country.

There’s word today Ontario has ordered an extra 1.4 million doses, with an aim to make the shots available to everyone by next month.

In Nova Scotia, the Health Minister says the official kickoff will come later this week, and supply should not be a problem,

“We do anticipate having enough vaccine for folks,” said Michelle Thompson.

“And I would really encourage people to ensure they have both their COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine this year.”

But, if early demand is any indication there might not be need for much encouragement.

A sign of the times as more and more of us take steps to avoid getting sick.

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PG woman denied high dose flu shot, although her age and health condition makes her eligible –



“I’m an advocate for my health and I want the best that there is–everybody should have what they need,” said Newman.

Today, the province announced it’s beginning its influenza immunization campaign.

“The influenza vaccine is for free for anybody over six months of age, for whom it’s recommended. But particularly for people who have underlying health conditions,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer

Newman’s condition requires a higher dose of the flu shot and she has been eager to get it. However, she says she’s been denied even though she’s eligible.

“I have Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a cancer of your lymphatic system–your germ fighting network. So as soon as the flu shots were available, I phone my pharmacy to get the high dose vaccine. I was told that the high doses were not available,” said Newman.

Because of her cancer, she’s also classified as a Clinically Extremely Vulnerable person (CEV). She has qualified for the high dose shot in the last three years. But after calling more than a dozen pharmacies and Northern Health, she was told she wasn’t eligible yet.

“It’s really hard to get answers. But when I’ve had it in the past and people in my situation have had the high dose in the past. I just don’t get why we cannot get it. Nobody can tell me. They don’t say it’s a supply issue or anything, so I just don’t understand,” said Newman.

According to ImmunizeBC’s website, First Nations communities, residents in long term care, residents in assisted living facilities, and who are 65 and older are able to receive the high dose for free.

This means Newman’s age alone qualifies her.

CKPG-TV reached out to the Ministry of Health for clarification as to why she wasn’t able to get a high dose shot. At the time that this article was written, this was the response that was given:

“As of today, the province is proud to announce the implementation of free publicly-funded influenza vaccines for those 6 months and older (those under 6 months aren’t eligible to receive this vaccine). FluZone HD, also referred to as the “high-dose influenza vaccine,” was never publicly-funded in BC until the federal government made it available in limited supply last year. With publicly funded FluZone HD, eligibility is restricted to residents of LTC/AL who are 65 or older. This year, eligibility was extended to people 65 or older residing in Indigenous communities. No pharmacy within Northern Health has a stock of publicly funded FluZone HD reserved for these eligible populations; they are administered through other means. Some pharmacies may pay for private-pay stock of FluZone HD. That is their prerogative and the Ministry is only responsible for publicly-funded stock. If those over 65 who do not live in an Indigenous community or are an LTC resident can receive a standard-dose influenza vaccine, they should accept it,” said Ministry of Health.

Newman says that she’s not undermining the importance of the other groups getting the high dose, she’s upset that the province didn’t plan for high-risk people like herself to get one.

“It just astounds me. To me, there’s no common sense. I know common sense is not so common, but what is right is right and you know I’ve already gotten my covid booster shot. I felt guilty getting that before some people in long care even got it. I just want what’s right for everybody.” said Newman.

She says she’s not going to give up on her fight and she thanks all healthcare workers for their fight against COVID-19.

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UPS, Disney meet White House officials to discuss vaccine mandate



Executives with United Parcel Service Inc, Walt Disney Co and other companies met with White House officials on Tuesday to discuss President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement plan for private-sector workers, amid concerns it could worsen labor shortages and supply chain woes.

The mandate would apply to businesses with 100 or more employees, and would affect about 80 million workers nationwide.

Several industry sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rulemaking process was moving with urgency and they expect the mandate to be formally announced as early as this week. It was not clear how much time employers will have to implement it.

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been meeting with several influential business lobbying groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the Business Roundtable as part of its rulemaking process. The meetings were requested by the trade groups and companies and is part of the regular rulemaking process.

Tuesday’s meetings were disclosed in filings with the White House. Disney did not respond to requests for comment. A UPS spokesperson confirmed the meeting and said it is reviewing what a vaccine mandate means for the company and its employees.

Many of the industry groups have raised concerns such as labor shortages and how regulation by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could worsen existing supply-chain problems facing U.S. companies ahead of the holiday shopping season. Other topics, such as testing requirements and who will bear the cost, also were raised.

Evan Armstrong, RILA vice president for workforce, said it will be tough for the retail industry to implement the rule in the middle of the U.S. holiday season and that pushing it to January would help. He said the group raised the topic with the White House during their meeting.

“The implementation period needs to push this out past the holiday season because obviously for retail that is the biggest time for us,” he said. RILA’s members include large U.S. employers such as Walmart Inc and the industry supports over 50 million U.S. jobs.

Biden’s plan has drawn a mixed reaction from industry trade groups and companies.

Several big employers including Procter & Gamble Co and 3M Co, along with airlines such as American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp, have imposed vaccination mandates since Biden’s announcement last month. Others such as IBM have said they will require all U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, no matter how often they come into the office.

Some other large U.S. employers, such as Walmart, have yet to issue broad requirements.

The vaccine order has spurred pushback from many Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott of Texas, who issued an executive order banning businesses in his state from requiring vaccinations for employees. Although some, such as American Airlines, have said they plan to proceed with vaccination rules.

The mandate will be implemented under a federal rule-making mechanism known as an emergency temporary standard.


(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)

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