Should I Buy an Insulin Pen?

Posted by on Jul 25, 2012 in News | 0 comments

Insulin pens are widely used in Europe, but much less so in the USA. Most are about the size of a marking pen and contain a cartridge that carries insulin. These pens are relatively easy to use and are portable. Some patients only use insulin pens while they are traveling and others use them routinely. All insulin pens require a pen needle that is sold separately. A new pen needle is recommended for each injection of insulin.

Disposable vs. Reusable

There are two basic types of insulin pens: disposable and reusable. The reusable pens must be loaded with an insulin cartridge before you can use it. In most cases, the cartridge will hold 100-300 units of insulin and last a few days. Once the cartridge is empty, it has to be disposed. They typically last a few years.

The disposable pens are prefilled with insulin and the whole thing is thrown out after use. These disposable pens usually contain 300 units of insulin and are sold in boxes of 5. The only advantage of disposable pens is that you don’t have to load the insulin cartridge. They’re also a lot more expensive than the reusable pens.

There are several brands of insulin pens and they cannot be interchanged. They can also vary in the amount of insulin available and how much dose is delivered. Most have a dial so you can set the dose and an indicator telling how much insulin is left.

Worth the Cost?

Insulin pens have the one advantage that you don’t have to draw any insulin each time. The pen is convenient for use and portable. Dose adjustment is easy because you only have to set the dial button.

However, insulin pens are not for all diabetics. They are much more expensive than the regular syringes and needles. A small amount of insulin in the pen is usually wasted because it’s not enough to be injected.

Moreover, insulin pens are only available for some types of insulin formula. If you need an insulin mixture, then you may need two insulin pens to administer each dose.

The cost of an insulin pen varies from $100-$150 depending on the brand. A vial of regular insulin only costs $20. While some private insurers will cover the cost of insulin pens, it’s not universal. Medicare for example does not cover the cost.

Before you rush out and buy an insulin pen, speak to your healthcare provider and get a second opinion from a diabetic user. New is not always better in medicine.


Contributed by Dr. Steven Bhimji, M.D.

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