Have you heard there’s a “black market” for pharmaceuticals? The prices are typically low, but it’s a highly risky transaction, given that there’s no regulation.
However, it’s also more common than you probably think. As prices for life-saving drugs hit an all-time high, patients have begun to seek black-market medications in their desperate attempts to stay healthy.
Pricey Drug Swap on Facebook and Online Forums
You can buy, sell, or trade almost anything on Facebook now, and drugs are apparently on the list. Some patients use their public newsfeed to get what they want at a more affordable price.
It works like any other trade or sell operation. A patient in need of insulin posts a request to his or her newsfeed. Then prospectives can send a private message with an agreement or counteroffer.
According to NBC News, requests from the online forums and social pages have included: “In need of lantus. Will trade novalog.” “ISO [in search of] a Novopen Echo. I have Humalog and Apidra pens and Apidra vials and Ominpods to trade.” “I have one with some unexpired Novolog refills. I am in need of Apidra pens!”
Dedicated pages for swapping drugs also exist, and people aren’t particularly careful about where or who they trade with. They’ll take something without checking it first, and even meet complete strangers in person for a transaction.
Are These Online Trades Lifesavers?
Some say these highly risky groups are lifesavers. “If it weren’t for the online diabetes community I would be dead,” Amy Leyendecker said to NBC News.
Amy is 43 years old and living with Type-1 diabetes. She requires daily doses of insulin to stay alive, but because she’s a student with medical and college debt, she can’t afford the shots.
Another little girl who’s allergic to the only kind of insulin her insurance provider will cover gets her regular doses from online providers. Her mother found the online community and trades often, despite the risks.
“I have to beg, plead, and borrow just to survive each month,” said the girl’s mother, Andrea Corley. “I will go without eating if I have to, to make sure she is healthy and happy.” Corley says her family has gone without food in the past to pay for medicine.
According to this family, online trading of drugs is the only way to keep their daughter alive. Appeals by the family doctor to the insurance have not been sufficient to lower the rising costs of insulin.
High Risks of Trading on the Black Market
The risks of trading and buying drugs on the black market are pretty obvious. The FDA has no way to regulate these pharmaceuticals.
There’s also the risk of substance abuse. You could be trading with drug addicts, which is dangerous for you and for them. Thus, the practice is illegal and strongly ill-advised.
The government has made some efforts to tighten the drug supply chain, but the solution is not necessarily simple. Making arrests and shutting down illicit online groups is often ineffective and consumes more resources than government institutions can spare.
Families Understand the Risk, but Do it Anyway
Most people who turn to the black market are fully aware of the risks, but do it anyway. They see no other option when drug prices are rising and health insurance doesn’t cover what they need.
It’s not wise to purchase drugs on the black market, and law enforcement will continue to pursue the war on drugs, even when the venue shifts online. People who participate today may find themselves subject to fines, jail time, or worse.
True, the drug trade is growing faster than law enforcement can handle, but overall, it’s not worth the risk to your lifestyle and health.
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