Patients barter for costly medications on Facebook

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Patients struggling to afford their medications are turning to an unlikely source for help: Facebook.

An NBC News investigation found some patients use the social media site to barter for medications.

Here are four things to know.

1. Patients either request a drug by posting a status on their regular newsfeed or join private Facebook groups specifically created to arrange drug trades. Group sizes range from 12 members to a couple thousand, according to the report.

2. Most patients bartering for drugs have run out of supplies, lack necessary insurance coverage or can't afford out-of-pocket costs, reports NBC News. Individuals with extra or spare doses of a requested medication will either trade with these patients for other drugs, or just ship the medication to those who need it, only asking them to cover the shipping costs.

3. NBC News investigators found posts requesting trades for insulin, EpiPens, asthma inhalers and other prescription medications.

4. Physicians and regulators warn about the potential safety risks associated with this practice due to the potential for tampering, infection and scams, according to the report. However, patients struggling to afford their medications told NBC News they'd rather face these risks, as opposed to the more severe health consequences that may occur if they can't get access to the medications they need.

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