Giving Back with DrugStars – by Nete Holm

At Beta Change, we’re constantly inspired by stories of people doing awesome things. Nete shares with us that you don’t need to hold positions of responsibility to do awesome things in the diabetes community. Through DrugStars, she’s found a way to give back to her diabetes community!

Since 2012 I’ve been really active in the Danish diabetes community, doing tons of volunteering across regional, national and international work. So when I finished my master’s degree in August 2017, I felt like I needed to focus a little bit more on getting a paid job.

I had already graduated from the international diabetes program I was a part of back in 2015, and since the national diabetes committee I was on was a pilot project that ended in early 2017, the “only” voluntary work I still did was being the vice president on the youth board in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. I decided to leave that position to focus 100% on myself for a while. 

But how do you do that? Just completely stopping all voluntary work, when it’s been such a big part of your life for so many years? I must admit, I felt kind of empty in the beginning. I had done voluntary work for a reason – because I wanted to make a difference for people living with diabetes. 

That’s when I came into contact with one of the guys behind Novo Nordisk’s DAWN (Diabetes Attitudes, Wishes and Needs) studies, Søren Skovlund. I met Søren was in 2013 at the World Diabetes Congress in Melbourne and we had kept in touch ever since, talking about diabetes studies and psychological aspects connected to diabetes from my view as a PWD and his view as a scientist. 

Søren was working in a new company now and developing an app, and he asked me to start working as an intern for a couple of months. This was not just any app: it allows people to review their medicine, potentially participate in research studies, and last but definitely not least, donate to basically any charity/patient organization, without spending any money yourself. Although my internship has wrapped up, by downloading this amazing app, I now feel like I’m still supporting a good cause, without it taking several hours of work every week. It actually only takes up about 7 seconds of my time every day. 

Here’s a rundown of the app, called DrugStars: all you do is download the DrugStars app and register your medications. This could be insulin, but also vitamins, birth control pills and everything in between – even medication for your pet! You then continue to take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor. The app allocates “stars” each day for each medication you take. You will be reminded to collect your stars at the time you have selected to take your dose. The app also has a reminder function, if you want a reminder when it’s time to take your long acting insulin once or twice a day. 

I don’t use the reminder function, so all I do is just collect the stars once a day – and if I forget it, I just do it the next day (the stars won’t disappear, so you can just collect them once a week, if you don’t want to spend more time on the app than that). 

When you have collected 50 stars, you can donate them to a charity of your choice, and DrugStars will convert your stars into real money. One star represents 1 cent (USD), which might not seem like much, but the Danish Diabetes Association has already received $4,674 USD from the Danish DrugStars users. Other organizations such as the cancer and cystic fibrosis organizations and hospital clowns have also received money from the DrugStars app users. 

DrugStars is available in most parts of the world, with a few exceptions. But most countries will not have any specific associations you can donate to (yet!). For instance, if you live in Australia and download the app, you can still collect stars and donate to the diabetes cause. It just means that your stars will only turn into real money as soon as DrugStars have an actual association to donate them to. 

Although I still support the work DrugStars is doing, now I work as a communication manager with a company called Human Factor. They do coaching and leadership training and development, combining psychology and business approaches. I make social media and communication strategies while assisting with the redesign of the website.

I can only recommend DrugStars to anyone who wishes to easily support patient organizations and charities. It is so easy, and every cent makes a big difference! Since the beginning of 2018, I have already donated five times to the Danish Diabetes Association, and I no longer feel like I’m doing nothing. I take care of myself, while helping others – win-win, if you ask me! 

Here’s a look at the process of collecting stars through the app: