People with diabetes not only have a life-long, life-threatening ailment they have to I manage on a day-to-day basis, they also bear the burden of enormous costs associated with it. Even if you have a good insurance plan, insulin and other medications can cost hundreds of dollars a year. Then there's the cost of testing strips.. .glucose monitors. . .and frequent doctor visits. It's estimated that more than 10 cents of every health-care dollar is spent on diabetes. For patients who have limited or no insurance coverage, individual costs can be staggering.

However, according to Judith McQuown, author of 1001 Tips for Living Well with Diabetes: Firsthand Advice That Really Works, there are a number of ways that people with diabetes can save money without compromising care.


  • Buy supplies on eBay. There usually are hundreds of listings for test kits, glucose-monitoring devices, test strips, etc. You'll pay considerably less than retail prices.

Important: Check expiration dates on items you're buying. Also check the seller's customer feedback to make sure he/she is reputable.

  • Buy mail order. There are a number of large, reputable mail-order pharmacies, such as Liberty Medical ( Because they deal in large volumes, they typically charge less than local pharmacies.
  • Buy generics. The Food and Drug Administration requires generic drugs to be identical to the original brand-name drugs in dosage, quality, safety and strength—and the savings can be tremendous.

Example: The average cost of a brand-name prescription drug is $77...generic, $14. That said, there have been incidents of generic drugs not being as effective as the brand-name version. Talk to your doctor to be sure the generic versions are acceptable. Then double-check that the generic version is identical to the brand-name drug.

  • Split pill doses. Ask your doctor to prescribe pills that are double your usual dosage, and then cut them in half. Most drugs come in several doses. The cost of higher-dose pills is usually the same or only slightly higher than the lower doses. Cutting pills in half can turn one month's supply into two.

Caution: Some drugs—those with enteric coatings or timed-release ingredients, for example—must be taken whole. Ask your doctor if pill splitting is appropriate for any of the drugs you're currently taking. And, be sure to use a "pill splitter" to ensure equal distribution.

  • Participate in clinical trials. Patients who enroll in studies to test new drugs and/or treatments usually get free checkups, tests, consultations with specialists, etc. Many clinical trials compare active drugs with a placebo. Talk to your doctor about whether a given trial would be appropriate for you—and the potential risks if you happen to be in the placebo group. The upside of being in a trial is that your overall care will be state-of-the-art and you will be very well monitored. The downside is that there is risk involved with new medications. Depending on what's being tested, it may be worth considering.
  • Know the formulary. Most health-insurance plans have a list of brand-name and generic drugs that they'll cover, This list is known as the formulary. If your doctor prescribes a drug that's not in the formulary you will have to pay full price.

Example: Cipro antibiotic ear drops, which weren't in McQuown's medical group's formulary, cost $134. A prescription of Cortisporin, a similar, brand-name antibiotic that was in the formulary costs $10 for the co-pay. Since people with diabetes are prone to an array of health challenges, having the full formulary can be very helpful.

Although these strategies won't make the diabetes go away, they can help ease some of the burden of it.

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