If you have diabetes and use more than three glucose testing strips per day to keep your blood sugar in check, you’re going to have to shop for them somewhere besides CVS. That’s because at the beginning of the year, the company introduced a limit on the number of medically prescribed testing strips they’re willing to sell a patient. That limit is just one strip per day for non-insulin-dependent customers and three strips per day for those who take insulin.
Some patients only require one or two test strips a day, so the new limit poses little concern. But for those who need more than three per day to make sure their blood sugar stays controlled, the rule could cause some serious health issues. Many patients, for example, test once in the morning, at lunchtime, at dinnertime, and before bed. Skipping one or more of these tests could mean risking a hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic attack, which can be life-threatening.
It’s also concerning that patients who use their entire allotted amount test strips every day will not have any backups available for days that may require more test strips. Vigorous exercise, for example, may be cause for an extra test, as it can cause a sudden blood sugar drop. People with diabetes who began to feel weak or woozy should also do an extra test to see if their blood sugar levels are contributing to their symptoms. Some people may also require extra test strips while they work through a change in medication or other life changes.
“If patients don’t know what they’re blood sugars are, then physicians can’t guide them with their medications, with their diet,” says endocrinologist Melissa Young. “And for some people, three test strips a day is sufficient. But for many, they need more.”
Medicare covers three test strips a day for diabetic patients without question, but for patients who require more and have been prescribed more by their doctors, more are covered. CVS, however, has refused to acknowledge their customers’ documented medical needs for more test strips and has kept strictly to their three-per-day limit.
“When we make the decision that patients need to check more frequently, it’s not taken lightly,” Dr. Young continues. “Patients aren’t checking on a whim. They’re not doing it for entertainment. They’re doing it for their health and safety.”
For patients who require more than the allowed number of test strips per day, CVS recommends finding another pharmacy that is able to fulfill those needs. Check out the video below to learn more about this issue.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?