The Ketone Strip Shortage

I just saw a status posted by a friend of a friend, and it opened up a whole new world to me. I did a bit more digging and finally found out more about the nation wide ketone strip shortage. 

T1Ds use ketone blood or urine strips to test our ketone levels. Ketones occur with very high sugar levels, or when you’re sick. In t1ds the presence of ketones with a high sugar is very dangerous and called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). The body begins using its own supplies for energy and the glucose level rises.

In short, DKA is the threat high sugars pose. It can lead to organ failure, coma, and death.

We aim to keep ketones under 0.6, anything over that and there’s an emerging problem if your sugars are over 15 as well. 1.5 and you often need to seek immediate contact with a healthcare professional.

The ketone strips we use are inaccurate, or expensive. Ketone urine sticks have a 20minute delay, but they’re cheaper. Ketone blood strips are more accurate, but don’t come cheap and only have 10 in a box. I got sick when I went to Tasmania and had to go through a few of these strips. But even though I was sick I was treating them like gold because they’re expensive. But they’re also oddly rare.

There’s a national shortage of these strips all the time. For some reason supply is never meeting demand. 

Turns out people on the low carb ketosis diets (people trying to get ketones to lose weight) are buying them. Ketosis isn’t dangerous for them because it’s not ketoacidosis, because they don't have the associated high sugar. There are pages and pages of people encouraging it all over the web. I found them. They’re full of tips, and even specific information of where in the chemist you can buy the strips. One person even laughs at how no one really needs to have them, but it’s nice for a nerdy person who’s interested in tracking ketones. Some T1s use them for their own ketosis diets and encourage it.

So these strips are being used for a fad diet.

As a few of my friends can attest I was absolutely filthy for a solid hour. How dare these people on fad diets buy out life saving equipment for what is basically “fun”? How dare they leave us with the useless urine sticks that have such a big delay and inaccuracy that there’s very little point to them? How dare they abuse the enormous gift they have of not NEEDING to do that?

So I threw this enormous rant at my mum, as usual. Of course at first she was as angry as I was. But then being the logical, kind person she is, she gave me a different perspective.

Disclaimer: I’m still really annoyed about this and will contact the suppliers of ketone strips to do something proactive about it. But I do acknowledge this side of it.

The issue isn’t really about the consumers, it’s about the suppliers. They don’t make ketone strips prescription only. They don’t require proof of being diabetic to buy them. There isn’t enough education for these people using them for ketosis diets to know that they’re life saving equipment. The people producing the product are not supplying enough to meet this new demand.

So if they’re available, who am I to say who can use them and who can’t?
Yes, they’re in the diabetes section or behind the counter. Yes, these people know they’re for diabetics. But as I find time and time again, people hear diabetes and they don’t think of life endangerment. They think of obesity, food and exercise (which of course is not how t2 works at all, otherwise there would be far more t2s).

Hey, they’re trying to lose weight too, so it’s okay for them to buy it!
Or at least that’s the thought pattern.

I guess the issue is a lack of education, of both the consumers and the suppliers. The consumers don’t know what they’re buying, and the suppliers don’t know they have a new market. Plus the t1s they are exposed to are on these diets themselves, so of course they encourage it.

That calmed me down a little. But why am I still annoyed?

It’s really simple. I’m jealous, and it’s a personal affront. Sometimes when these things happen, I think it's okay to have a bit of a whinge.

They don’t have to check ketones. They don’t have to worry about ketoacidosis. They don’t have to worry about blood sugar checks. They don’t have to worry about insulin injections. They don’t have to worry about trying to buy ketone strips in an emergency and not finding any at the chemist.

But I do.

I have calloused, spotty fingers from testing 10+ times a day for over six years. I have constant expenses for supplies. I have scar tissue and markings and pockets of collected fat tissue from injections and pump cannulas going into my stomach and sides again and again.

I have no choice, but they do. They don’t have to do this. Sure, go ahead and do your fad diet, I don’t care. I’m not saying weight loss is easy, or no big deal. It’s hard and people try a lot of options to achieve a goal- their health.  It’s not really their fault because they don’t know. It’s on the suppliers to either educate, or supply more to meet their new market.

Yes, I am jealous that something essential for me is a luxury gadget for someone else, and it sucks. 

But now the whinge is done it's time to go and educate the suppliers. To sit back, moan, and do nothing about it is redundant. Education creates new ideas, ideas create action, and action creates change.




  1. I went through a similar thought process. I was a bit cranky at first and annoyed at the reason why I could never find ketone strips.

    But then, I realised that if the pharmacies are aware of this problem, they should be ordering more to meet demand.

    Diabetes QLD sell the ketone strips in their online shop, so I buy them from there now rather than try pharmacies when there's only like a 1 in 3 chance they will have some.

    1. Yep Diabetes NSW do the same which makes life much easier. Just tricky when on holiday or in a pinch.

      But I think they need to be alerted to it a bit more, and either provide education around the purpose of the product or require an NDSS card if they don't want to stock more.

  2. Are they subsidised on the NDSS? If so, it's sad to think that people with diabetes are likely the ones buying them at the cheaper price and onselling them.

    1. Yes they are :/ Which I hadn't thought of. That's terrible for everyone involved.
      Seems in the US there's less restriction but obviously here it's t1s who really should know better considering we're meant to be the educated ones about it

    2. They're not NDSS subsidised - Diabetes Australia just lobbied to get the prices down, but its not on NDSS listing. They used to cost about $20 to $30 for 10, then Abbott agreed to price them at an RRP of $9.95. Some places still charge more than that RRP though.


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