NewsChannel 11 Investigates: Diabetic Test Strips Not Made for US - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

5/18/09

NewsChannel 11 Investigates: Diabetic Test Strips Not Made for US

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By Nicole Pesecky - bio | email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A NewsChannel 11 investigation finds possible counterfeit diabetic medical supplies in Lubbock. We have conflicting stories but the one thing everyone agrees on, the medical supplies were never supposed to be sold here. NewsChannel 11's investigator Nicole Pesecky has been investigating this story for more than two weeks.

The test strips in question are labeled LifeScan's One Touch Ultra made by Johnson and Johnson. The strips tell a diabetic what to do if blood sugar readings get too high or too low. They look similar to the legitimate brand sold in the U.S., but the difference is, the box has Asian writing on the outside, which LifeScan says isn't meant for U.S. consumers. The strips were being sold at Caprock Medical Supply in Lubbock.

A concerned parent tells us when it comes to his family; he's not taking any chances since the results could be the difference between life and death. Makenzie Tanner is a normal 9-year-old. She takes dance lessons and loves to sing. You would never know for the last 3 years she's been dealing with Type 1 Diabetes, the most serious kind.

This brave second grader is pretty independent. Makenzie pokes her finger, using test strips to check her blood levels 6-8 times a day. During our interview her alarm went off, which tells her it's time to check levels. Makenzie's parents say they have to trust that the medical equipment readings are accurate.

Eye brows were first raised when the family received test strips with a white sticker over the side of the box. When they pealed it off, they found text that read, "Do not distribute in North America." After that, they complained to Caprock Medical Supply, asking for legitimate product.

Next they got test strips with foreign language on the box and on the vials inside. "It leads us to question are we using diverted product? Are they counterfeit? We don't know, but what we do know is we're not sticking it to my daughter's finger," explains Kevin Smith, Makenzie's dad.

David Detmers, the LifeScan Director of Communications says, "We do not distribute packaging for the U.S. with Asian language on it." So we checked with other pharmacies in Lubbock to see what they were selling. Raff and Hall, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens and Caprock Pharmacy were all selling the normal version of the One Touch Ultra test strips.     

The difference between the brands, the other pharmacies all sold a version where you can actually read all the writing on the box. "I know as far as One Touch - it shouldn't have any of that writing on there," United pharmacists Carl Carruthers said. He explains that using these strips could be a dangerous mistake, "It might not be compatible with the meter that's marketed in the U.S. so you might be getting false levels," Carruthers said.      

McKenzie's dad says that's exactly what happened to his daughter. "We were getting inconsistent readings. We were getting readings where we would check her once and she would be extremely high and we would check her again and she was completely normal," Smith says.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's code of federal regulations, seeing both English and Asian on the labels is a red flag. So we went to Caprock Medical Supply to get answers.

Martha Morales, the manager there, did not want to go on camera, but did give a statement saying, "We just have to do more staff education and more stringent package checks in this global economy. We have implemented an updated check sheet to make sure we don't get any more questionably packaged items. We had no reason to believe there was anything wrong with the product. All other products have been removed from shelves."

The test strips are either fake or diverted product meant for South Korea. LifeScan reps have given us two different stories. Customer service told us they were counterfeit, by the Director of Communications for LifeScan says they are diverted product.     

Another issue with these test strips is the lack of phone number or web site to obtain assistance regarding the use and results of the test. The manager of Caprock Medical Supply also says if you have received these boxes to contact them and they will exchange them, free of charge.  

©2009 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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