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The Healthy Living Magazine

How to Donate Unused Diabetes Supplies

By Stacy Lu , ,

Giuseppe Ramos/iStock

Camp Hertko Hollow, a diabetes camp in Boone, Iowa, depends on donated diabetes supplies, mainly from pharmaceutical companies, to serve the 400 children who visit each year. In the summer of 2016, though, the camp didn’t get enough of what it needed.

“We check the children 10 to 12 times a day, and we were short by about 400 lancets,” says camp director Deb Holwegner.

Help came from another source: SafeNetRx, an Iowa-based nonprofit that runs a drug donation program for Iowans. The company receives donated medicines and health care supplies and redistributes them to health care providers and camps, including Hertko Hollow. Much to Holwegner’s relief, SafeNetRx happened to have a surplus of lancets to give the camp.

The program is one of a few that help channel donated diabetes supplies to people who need them. While the programs receive donations from individuals, they can differ greatly in what they’ll accept. If you have items you can’t use, here’s how to make sure they reach those in need. 

Give Supplies

It’s against the law to give away prescription medications without a license. But 37 states and Guam have passed laws that allow registered clinics or treatment programs in their individual states to receive and redistribute donated products to eligible patients.

In the 2017 fiscal year, SafeNetRx shipped $4.9 million worth of medicines and medical supplies to health facilities and camps in Iowa, including more than $146,000 worth of diabetes medicines and supplies. The need for unopened boxes of test strips and sealed packages or boxes of syringes is ongoing, says Kenzie Harder, PharmD, pharmacy manager of the drug donation repository at SafeNetRx. “We also accept diabetes medication if it is in its original packing with a foil seal.”

In addition to following the legal regulations set forth by the state, each organization may have its own requirements. For instance, not all accept donations from individuals. Not all take insulin. And some accept only over-the-counter supplies, while others take only prescription medications. Supplies generally need to be within six months of the expiration date, although some programs are OK with supplies that expire within three months.

Check with your health care provider or local pharmacy for information on where to donate in your state. Out-of-state donations are accepted by SafeNetRx, but the company distributes only within Iowa. (See safenetrx.org/drug-donation for information on how to donate.)

There are also national nonprofit organizations that accept donations from individuals, though they may have restrictions on where and how they can distribute them. Insulin for Life USA accepts mail-in donations from organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and individuals, which it redistributes in more than a dozen foreign countries (and in the United States during natural disasters).

“We will always take insulin—any shape, size, form, or brand—if it’s in date and has been properly stored and mailed using refrigerated shipping,” says Carol Atkinson, director of Insulin for Life USA. “Every unit of insulin adds up.”

The group accepts other supplies, too (find out more at ifl-usa.org). Per its license, most of its donations go to diabetes associations, health care facilities, and pharmacies, all of which are overseas and provide diabetes self-management education along with supplies to help recipients use them properly. Insulin for Life USA also partners with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other groups on occasion to gather and distribute diabetes supplies to help those affected by natural disasters in the United States, as it did after Hurricane Harvey last year.

Many organizations don’t accept insulin pumps or related equipment, such as tubing or meters. Before donating, check with the organization to be sure they’re accepted. The CR3 Diabetes Association is one exception. The organization works with Medtronic to redistribute refurbished pumps and supplies. Visit cr3diabetes.org for a list of pumps and supplies it accepts.

Get Supplies

Ask your health care provider or your pharmacist where you can find free or low-cost diabetes supplies in your area. While SafeNetRx works within Iowa and Insulin for Life USA primarily distributes internationally, the CR3 Diabetes Association ships within the United States (applicants must submit a letter of medical necessity from a prescribing doctor). Or go to findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov to find a community health center near you that can help with discounted supplies. Most pharmaceutical companies provide free or discounted medications for people who meet certain requirements. Visit the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (pparx.org) for a list of these programs. Or go to diabetes.org/prescriptionassistance.

Safe Shipping

  • If you are donating insulin, it should be refrigerated until you’re ready to mail it and then packed in a cooler or insulated shipping box with a reusable freezer gel pack. Avoid placing gel packs directly against the insulin, though. They could freeze the insulin, rendering it unusable. Be sure to specify two-day delivery because insulin loses its potency if it gets too warm.

  • Oral medicines and supplies must be in their original, sealed containers.

  • Expiration dates should be visible on the packaging of all donated supplies. Check the program’s use-by date guidelines to be sure yours meets the requirements.

  • Ask if your donation is tax deductible. If so, include your e-mail address or a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a receipt.


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