Omnipod FreeStyle test strip horror story

Like everyone else I got the Abbott mailing about an "urgent product recall" of the BG testing system built in to the Omnipod:

I talked to Abbott about this and verified that Wal-Mart was able to supply the right strips, then I checked the next prescription and refused to take the strips from Wal-Mart (they were the wrong ones) and explained the situation. After this point I did less checking, in fact I think I might have been accepting "2014/08" because I forgot the year. During this time the pharmacist was putting the prescription sticker so that it covered both the date and the lot number; I had to peal each one back to check.

Over this time it became increasingly difficult to get a full month supply of strips (300) from Wal-Mart, typically it took about 2 weeks and I would get a one or two box partial.

Early last month there was a posting on tudiabetes about the supply problem and I ended up checking the Abbott release again. When I went to double check my supplies I found that the dates varied between 2015/07 and 04/2016. I had 400 strips that were 2015/07 and the last order, which I had picked up a day or so before, had a totally random mix of dates. So I telephoned the Abbott line and they sent me 400 replacements.

This time when I picked up the prescription after about 2 weeks there wasn't a single box dated 2015/08 or later. On investigation Wal-Mart had only one box (04/2016) and they refused to give me a partial; I could take 50 strips for a months supply or I could do what I did and wait another week for them to get more. I made very sure that they understood the situation, but the pharmacist seemed totally unaware of the issue.

One week later, Wal-Mart rang up and assured me they had managed to get the months supply with the correct date. Well, I was just going to pick it up and go home, but my wife insisted on checking every box. Fortunately the pharmacist was now attaching the sticker so that the date was visible. Five of the boxes were good; four from 2016/05, one 2016/04. One box was 2015/07.

Once again Wal-Mart refused to do a partial. This time it was 250 strips for a months supply or take the 2015/07. The pharmacist permitted me to do this; i.e. she permitted me to take a 2015/07 box while Abbott states (second link), "Test strips from any other source must have an expiration date of August 2015 or later."

The pharmacist explained that she had contacted Abbott and they had told here that the strips could not be replaced because there was no product recall. So far as I can tell she didn't believe a word I told her and, when she rang Abbott, whoever she spoke to told her something that doesn't reflect the information on Abbott's web site. Why else would she give me a 2015/07 box and not even warn me?

So I took the box and, today, rang Abbott for a replacement. It gets worse. I rang the telephone number that is specific to the Omnipod recall, along the way the lady asked if I had a FreeStyle meter. I was asked this the previous time but I couldn't be sure last time because it was in a box somewhere - I use a Bayer meter for backup. This time I knew where it was. The lady said that the 2015/07 strips would work with that meter and that I didn't need replacements. Well, we're all Omnipod users so I'm not going to comment further on that, and she did agree to send a replacement box after I pointed out that I didn't use the FreeStyle meter, I used the PDM.

I can only guess as to what is going on here. I noticed that Wal-Mart have stopped retailing the FreeStyle test strips; they have Lite on the shelves no 'Hevy' FreeStyle any longer. I don't know what meters Abbott sent out after they recalled the "FreeStyle" meters, I guess probably "FreeStyle Freedom" as packaged with the PDM, but I also guess that a lot of people switched to other, cheaper, strips like "Lite".

So my best guess is that Wal-Mart have a big stock of FreeStyle test strips that they can't shift because only Omnipod users and a few Freedom hold-outs still use them. Abbott said, in the second press release;

"3.If the pharmacy does not have any FreeStyle blood glucose test strips available with an expiration date of August 2015 or later, request that the pharmacy order new FreeStyle blood glucose test strips from their wholesaler. It may take 2-3 days for your FreeStyle blood glucose test strips to arrive at the pharmacy. Be sure to verify the expiration date when you pick up your testing supplies."

So Abbott had apparently flushed the earlier dated strips out of their distribution pipeline between February (the first notice) and April (the second). Despite this Wal-Mart clearly still have a big stock, Wal-Mart are typically their own wholesaler. The most distressing aspect of this is that Wal-Mart don't seem to have any stock-control. I expect to receive lots in date order; a single prescription fill might have two dates, but earlier fills should not have *later* dates and single fills should not have more than two dates.

Postscript, December 27, 2014

I received the replacement box of 50 strips from Abbott today. To my surprise it was a 2015/07 box. Well, no problem there, Abbott say quite clearly that they may supply replacements from 2015/07. It's just a little surprising that they still have them, and the lot number was amusing close to the ones I've been having replaced; the lot number I have, 1453153, which Abbott states needs to be replaced was replaced by strips from lot 1453138.

Abbott has made a total mess of this whole situation, and pharmacies are so busy these days that they do not seem to have the time or the inclination to learn about the recalls. Can you change to a different drug store chain? I get my strips from CVS, and I have had no trouble with getting the right dates. I agree with you, though, that meters also are a concern. CVS only sells the "Lite" meter, and I refuse to go with that because then I would have to have two sets of test strips. Call Abbott about getting your hands on the correct meter. They sent me one that works with the same strips that work with the PDM. Good luck. I am sorry to hear of the hassle you are having.

I almost changed last time. Good to know that CVS is working. I'm tempted to use the small local single-store single-owner pharmacy, my Oregon local insurance company will probably work with them.

Ugh. What a nightmare!

If I use a medical equipment provider instead of a pharmacy, my test strips get billed as DME which is covered 100% by my insurance. I use the local pharmacy here in town. They are AWESOME and know my kids by name. It took them by surprise the first time I showed them the “recall” letter, but I haven’t had issue since then. I hope you can find another provider that is willing to work with you!