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Insulin Pens Offer an Alternative to Traditional Vials

October 25, 2011

Insulin plays a vital role in the treatment of diabetes. Traditionally, insulin has been administered using vials and syringes. In recent years, a new insulin delivery device has become available for almost all types of insulin. It is known as the Insulin Pen.

Although the cash price of insulin pens are generally more expensive than insulin in a vial per ml, some patients may find an economic benefit based on copay amounts and on expiration date advantages. For example, one 10ml vial may cost a patient a $20 copay amount, but a box of five 3ml pens (15ml total) may cost the patient that same $20. Even if the copay goes up to $25, the cost per ml would still be smaller with the insulin pen.

Also, most insulins have an expiration date of 30 days from the time they are first opened, and many times, the insulin expires before it is all used. With one 3ml insulin pen, the patient is less likely to have the insulin expire and have to waste the insulin than they would for one 10ml vial. If a patient only uses small doses of insulin, that same $20 copay that paid for one month of insulin in a vial could last 5 months using insulin pens.

Economic considerations aside, the biggest advantage for considering a switch to insulin pens comes in the ease and accuracy of use. Instead of having to insert a syringe into a vial and visually determine how much insulin to take out of the vial, the pen device comes with a calibrated section that easily allows the user to "dial in" the exact amount of units of insulin that need to be given. Another benefit of the pen is the ease of which the injection is administered, especially for diabetics who need to self administer their dose.

Insulin pens have been shown to be the preference in most patients. In one study of individuals over age 60, 85 percent found the pen easier to read compared with the vial and syringe. Seventy-five percent of those polled claimed the pen was easier to use, and 90 percent stated that they preferred the pen because of its ease of use and efficient delivery.

So far, the response has been positive. Facilities and residents will soon realize a cost savings with the majority of prescriptions, and the accuracy of the dosing will be an advantage for the patient. Another advantage will be for the short term rehab patient who was recently started on insulin, as the education of the pen device and transition to home will be simplified.

If you are currently using insulin or were recently prescribed insulin, I would encourage you to talk to your doctor or pharmacist about whether switching from vials and syringes to insulin pens would be the right choice for you.

This post was contributed by Rich Zabinski, director of Providence Pharmacy. Providence, the in-house pharmacy at Concordia Lutheran Ministries, has been serving seniors' medication needs for over eight years.

For many seniors, establishing and maintaining a medication management program is one reason for considering a move to a personal care community. Concordia always offers free, personalized tours at our seven western Pennsylvania locations - Cabot, South Hills, Allison Park (Rebecca Residence), Butler (Orchard), Plum Borough (Ridgewood Place), Cranberry and Fox Chapel - for individuals wishing to learn more.

E-mail us here or call 1.888.352.1571 to see what might be right for you or your loved one.

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