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For more than fifty years, I have been a type 1 diabetic. I am writing to bring attention to the fact that huge amounts of insulin are wasted due to the insulin packaging practices of the pharmaceutical industry.
Today, U.S. insulins are packaged either in ten-milliliter vials (each containing 1000 units of U-100) or in three-milliliter pen cartridges (each containing 300 units of U-100 insulin). That's considerably more than many type 1 diabetics (and some type 2s) require. For example, my daily insulin dose is only 20 units (600 units per month).
Since today's fast-acting insulins must be discarded 28 days after opening, my vials still contain more than one-third of their original insulin when I have to throw them out. I also end up wasting nearly 800 units of Lantus (injected at bedtime) every month. And depending upon how many times I use the insulin pen (a great help away from home), there is additional waste.
These packaging practices represent a major waste of insulin, resulting in increased costs not only to the millions of diabetics, but also to third parties such as health insurance companies and government agencies. I recently brought this issue to the attention of the ADA. Here is their response: "The American Diabetes Association does not have a position on insulin packaging by the different pharmaceutical companies. You can voice your concerns…with their customer service departments." I also called the FDA, but have received no reply.
In my opinion, insulin packaging will change only if professional and lay organizations and the FDA jointly bring pressure on the insulin manufacturers. I'm willing to do my part.
William J. Jasper, DDS, MPH
Raleigh, North Carolina
Editor-in-Chief replies: I agree. Let's write to the companies and get after them to cut down on this insulin waste.
Diabetes Health is the essential resource for people living with diabetes- both newly diagnosed and experienced as well as the professionals who care for them. We provide balanced expert news and information on living healthfully with diabetes. Each issue includes cutting-edge editorial coverage of new products, research, treatment options, and meaningful lifestyle issues.