By Corey Nahman, Registered Pharmacist
New York State Pharmacy License # 35512
How to pick a diabetic supply reliable merchant;
what to look for:
Did you know that when you search on Google for diabetic supplies
you come up with more than one million different web pages?
It's hard to find a reliable diabetic supply merchant unless you know what to look for. When you buy your supplies over the internet, make sure of the following before you sign up:
- They guarantee their supplies with a money-back guarantee - just like you get at Wal-Mart or K-Mart.
- Avoid diabetic supply merchants from Mexico, Asia, or South America or the Caribbean. Deal with merchants who are located in the United States or Canada. If you buy your supplies from outside of North America, the shipping is less reliable and your supplies may be held up in Customs. Plus, the farther away they are from you, the easier it is for them to rip you off.
- They need to have a return address that is not a P.O. Box; you want to buy your stuff from a real business located in a bricks-and-mortar building, not some weekend warrior who is selling diabetic supplies out of his garage or someone who buys them off of E-Bay and resells them to you.
- They have a 24-hour "1-800" telephone number. If something goes wrong, you want to speak to a real live person. It is a pain in the neck to only be able to communicate by e-mail. Personally, I would not buy anything from a merchant unless they have a toll-free phone number.
- Test the telephone number out: A reliable company has customer service clerks that can handle questions and are knowledgeable about the products they sell. The fly-by-night outfits farm out the billing to a 3rd party whose only job is to take your order and bill your credit card.
Speak to the person on the other end. Ask them if they ship the goods or are they just a billing center. Does it sound like they are reading from a script?
If they can't answer simple questions (like when was the company founded or what is the name of the company's president) that's not a good sign.
- They should have a pharmacist or a certified diabetes educator on hand to answer your questions by phone? This separates the big, well-run firms from the amateurs looking to make a quick buck.
For instance let's say that you are going on a cruise and you want to know how to store your supplies. Or suppose you leave your blood glucose testing strips in your car overnight and they are exposed to freezing temperatures and you want to know if they are still good. You want to be able to talk to a real live person, not just communicate by e-mail.
- What are their shipping charges? Don't just look at the prices of the supplies - add in the shipping prices. They might give you a great price on the test strips but charge you a fortune on shipping and what good is that?
Why Companies Love Diabetics
The typical diabetic spends at least $100.00 on diabetic supplies every month for the rest of their lives once they are diagnosed with diabetes. (Usually it winds up being a whole lot more than $100.00 when you include the pills, all the different kinds of insulin, syringes, alcohol pads and lancets, special foods, special ointments and salves, recipe books, treats and snacks, etc.)
That is why the diabetes supply companies are hungry for your
business - they know that diabetics are good customers and they
will make lots of money off of you if you are satisfied.
This competition for your money drives down the prices on things that diabetics use every day such as testing strips, glucose monitors, etc.
I know a thing or two about buying diabetic supplies over the internet and over the telephone. My father is a diabetic, my mother was a
diabetic. In my opinion the most important thing about picking a
merchant is the customer service that they offer.
I wouldn't even look at them unless they had 24-hour customer
service, and a toll free number staffed by real-live people who
speak perfect English.
How it works if you have insurance or Medicare:
If you have medical insurance or Medicare, the diabetic supply
merchant does all of the paperwork, submits the paper work to
Medicare or your insurance company and sends you the merchandise
for free or for a small co-pay.
You must sign a form called an "assignment of benefits" form and send it to them. This form allows the company to bill Medicare (or your
insurance company) directly on your behalf. This form is a legal
Then they send you your supplies each month, usually by UPS or
Federal Express. Getting it delivered this way saves you time from
going to the drugstore, waiting on lines, filling out forms etc.
Insulin is supposed to be kept cold when they ship it:
If they send you insulin, the insulin should come in a little Styrofoam box (like a mini-cooler) that contains some kind of cooling agent (like one of those little cold packs you use to keep soda-pop cold when you go on a picnic)
Why Is Testing Your Blood Sugar So Important?
The key to glucose control is glucose monitoring. If you are a diabetic you should test your blood glucose a minimum of once per day.
Diabetes is the mother of all heart diseases such as angina, heart
attack, high cholesterol, stroke etc.
People don't die from diabetes, they usually die from heart disease or stroke because high blood sugar has a sort of corrosive effect on the blood vessels and the entire cardiovascular system.
That is why it is important to monitor your blood glucose all the time. Every time your sugar goes too high, irreversible damage is taking place in your blood vessels and your heart. High sugar also triggers the production of cholesterol. That is why most diabetics also take a cholesterol lowering drug.
You see, if you can keep your diabetes under control, all of these other problems will be easier to manage or go away altogether.
If you test your blood sugar on a regular basis, after a while, you will know exactly how your body will react to certain foods and you will be able to fine-tune your eating habits so that your sugar remains at an acceptable level all through the day.
When you first learn that you have diabetes, it's like going on a
camping trip - you have to buy all kinds of supplies to be prepared properly.
If you run out when you are away from home or during a holiday weekend you are in for a very frustrating, inconvenient experience.
There are lots of diabetic supplies that you must purchase to keep a close watch on your diabetes. The most common items you need include: a good blood glucose monitor, test strips, good quality lancets, alcohol swabs, etc.
The trick is to never get caught without supplies; never wait until the last minute if you are running low. You should have a backup for all of your supplies. It is not a case of if you will run out of something, it is
a case of when you will run out of something.
The Basics: Why You Should Always Have A Backup:
In my experience as a pharmacist, people usually run out of diabetes supplies at the worst possible times: Christmas Eve, at their daughter's wedding, when they are on vacation 500 miles from home, etc.
If you use an insulin pen system to give yourself your shots, you should have some old-fashioned syringes and a normal vial of insulin in case your pen breaks or malfunctions.
Likewise, if you are on an insulin pump, you should have some syringes and bottles of insulin incase your insulin pump malfunctions, runs out of batteries or you develop a reaction at the site where the little needle is inserted into your belly.
It's a good idea to keep some glucose tablets or glucose gel handy in case of emergency for when your blood sugar is too low. These items will stay good for a long time and they are very convenient to use.
Keep some glucose tablets or glucose gel in your handbag, your glove compartment and your locker at work.
It is a good idea to keep back-up stash of all of your diabetic supplies at work, in your kids' houses or anywhere that you visit on a regular basis.
You should be able to get a good price on your everyday diabetic
necessities if you comparison shop.
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This Page Last Updated: 7/21/2008