TUESDAY, Dec. 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Patients with diabetes frequently engage in underground exchange activities for medications and supplies, according to a study published online Dec. 4 in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology.

Michelle L. Litchman, Ph.D., from the University of Utah College of Nursing in Salt Lake City, and colleagues recruited a convenience sample of people affected by diabetes to complete a survey about underground exchange activities. The correlation between self-reported difficulty with purchasing diabetes medication and supplies and engagement in underground exchange activity was examined.

The researchers found that 159 participants self-reported engagement in underground exchange activities, including donating, donation receiving, trading, purchasing, and borrowing (56.6, 34.6, 23.9, 15.1, and 22 percent, respectively). Such activity occurred among various individuals, including friends, family, coworkers, online acquaintances, and strangers. Engagement in trading diabetes medications or supplies and receiving donated medications or supplies was predicted by diabetes-specific financial stress (odds ratios, 6.3 and 2.8, respectively). In an analysis of open-text responses, unmet needs emerged as the overarching theme with three subthemes: factors influencing underground exchange activity, perceived benefits of underground exchange activity, and perceived consequences of underground exchange activity.

“Underground trading of medications and supplies isn’t ideal. But what other real solutions exist so that people can actually get what they need without increasing bureaucratic delays and burden?” Litchman said in a statement. “Our study points to an urgent need to improve access to medications that are essential for life.”

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