Why is using expired insulin risky?
Depending on how much insulin you need with each dose, you may still have insulin left in your pen by the time you reach its expiration date. And while it might seem wasteful to throw out unused insulin, it’s important to do so because expired insulin can actually do you more harm than good.
The effectiveness of expired insulin is hard to predict. Using insulin past the manufacturer’s expiration date can cause your blood glucose to be higher than expected if you stick to the same dosing you’ve been using all along.
High blood sugar can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, blurry vision and a frequent need to urinate. If your blood sugar is extremely high, you may even feel nauseous and faint. And underlying all of these symptoms is the potential for organ damage with uncontrolled diabetes.
How long are insulin pens good for?
There are several different types of injectable insulins and diabetes medications, and recommendations for how long they keep can vary. These are guidelines for some of the most popular injectable diabetes medications.
- Novolog FlexPen: use within 28 days after first use
- Novolog cartridge (for use in a reusable pen): use within 28 days after first use
- Humalog KwikPen: use within 28 days after first use
- Humalog cartridge (for use in a reusable pen): use within 28 days after first use
- Apidra SoloStar: use within 28 days after first use
- Humulin N KwikPen: use within 14 days after first use
- Lantus SoloStar: use within 28 days after first use
- Toujeo SoloStar: use within 28 days after first use
- Levemir FlexTouch: use within 42 days after first use
Other diabetes medications in pens
- Bydureon (single-dose pen): use immediately once the medication has been mixed
- Byetta: pen should be discarded 30 days after initial use
- SymlinPen: pen should be discarded 30 days after initial use
- Trulicity (single-dose pen): each pen can be used until the expiration date on the carton
- Victoza: pen should be discarded 30 days after initial use
What’s the best way to store insulin?
Insulin pens that are in use should be kept at room temperature (between 56ºF and 80ºF). If you buy several pens at a time to save money, the remaining pens should be stored in the refrigerator (at a temperature of 36ºF to 46ºF) to maximize their shelf life.
Pro-tip: Don’t store insulin in the fridge door because the temperature there can fluctuate when you open and close the door. The center shelf of the refrigerator is often ideal. Also, refrigerator thermostats can be inaccurate, so consider using a thermometer instead to keep track of the temperature.
Cold insulin can sometimes be painful to inject, so when you’re about ready to open your next pen, take it out ahead of time so it’s ready for your next injection.
Follow these additional tips to make sure your insulin is safe and effective:
- Only store insulin at room temperature or in the fridge—never in extreme heat (like a hot car) or extreme cold (like the freezer). Heat, light and freezing temperatures will make insulin break down. So, even if you thaw insulin after it was frozen, do not use it. Be sure to toss it out and open a new pen that was stored in safe conditions.
- Only use insulin that has not yet expired. When you’re ready to use your insulin pen, mark down the date you opened it, keep it outside the fridge, and use the guidelines above to know when to stop using it. Remember, once the pen is kept outside the fridge, the expiration date printed on the pen does not apply anymore.
- Always inspect your insulin before using it. If you notice any changes in color, clumps, white particles or crystals in the liquid, do not use it. Instead, bring your unopened pen back to the pharmacy where you got it for an exchange.
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