Black Market Insulin: Life-Saving Medication or Major Health Risk?

Insulin pen

Every year 1.4 million people in the United States are diagnosed with diabetes. If they are dependent on insulin to keep their blood sugar levels out of dangerous ranges, they are faced with a potentially huge expense. According to a 2016 article in Diabetes Forecast, “by 2020 the global insulin market will top $48 billion” and depending on the availability and type of insurance coverage, the burden on patients and their families is tremendous.

Individuals are countering this high price by turning to black market trading and purchasing of insulin via online sources that may or may not be legitimate. According to a 2017 NBC News article, “soaring insulin prices and inflexible insurance prices” are forcing parents to purchase or make deals via the Black Market for needed insulin for their children. But how do you know you are getting the medication you need? Counterfeit insulin pens, and test strips have been found on the marketplace and can result in injury or death if a patient who needs insulin, ends up dosing incorrectly or has an insulin pen that is fake and doesn’t work.

In addition to efforts by CSIP, partners and federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to curb the sale of counterfeit medications. Organizations like the American Diabetes Association are working to promote more affordable pricing of insulin for patients and to offer prescription assistance. “Diabetes kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined” reports the American Diabetes Association in its Fast Facts Series. With proper self-care and medication therapy, the risk of complications (including death) from uncontrolled diabetes can be minimized.

Before purchasing insulin or other diabetes supplies from an online pharmacy, patients can utilize, a free service provided by CSIP in partnership with the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State. This site can help with finding safe online pharmacies as well as ways to save on prescription medication.

The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and our member companies have the shared goal of helping address the growing problem of consumer access to illegitimate pharmaceutical products on the Internet. Continue to read this blog for updates on CSIP’s education, enforcement and information-sharing efforts.