Can I Use My Insulin Past its Expiration Date?
A certified diabetes educator answers whether older insulin is still safe to use.
Integrated Diabetes Services (IDS) provides detailed advice and coaching on diabetes management from certified diabetes educators and dieticians. Insulin Nation hosts a regular Q&A column from IDS that answers questions submitted from the Type 1 diabetes community.
Q: Should I really worry about using insulin after its expiration date? What about using it for more than 30 days? I think the insulin companies promote that just to make us throw out good insulin.
A: When it comes to insulin, we have to make darned sure that the stuff is at full potency, or blood glucose levels can go dangerously high.
The insulin manufacturers are required to test their products rigorously before bringing them to market. They can more or less guarantee that their products will work as indicated if used within the expiration date and for not more than a month after the seal on the vial, cartridge, or pen is broken. This is, of course, assuming that the insulin has been stored properly and not exposed to extreme heat, freezing cold, or direct sunlight.
Does this mean that insulin suddenly goes belly up at the stroke of midnight on the expiration date, or 28 days after being put into use? Hardly. Many people, including clinicians with diabetes, have used insulin beyond the “deadlines” without a hitch. It simply means that the manufacturer has not tested their product beyond the dates indicated, so there is no guarantee — no way of knowing exactly how long the insulin will remain at full strength.
This is where common sense comes into play. For those with good insurance coverage and plenty of insulin on-hand, it’s best to follow the rules and discard insulin that is past its expiration date or intended length of use. It just isn’t worth the risk.
However, if you have high out-of-pocket costs for insulin, or your supplies are limited, it may be worth stretching the life of your insulin a little bit. Just be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary, such as higher-than-expected glucose levels, discoloration of the insulin, or unusual skin reactions. Any of these means that you need to switch to fresh insulin right away.
Editor’s note – Please check with your medical provider before deciding to use a medicine in a way that’s different than indicated by its manufacturer.
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Integrated Diabetes Services provides one-on-one education and glucose regulation for people who use insulin. Diabetes “coaching” services are available in-person and remotely via phone and online for children and adults. Integrated Diabetes Services offers specialized services for insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor users, athletes, pregnancy & Type 1 diabetes, and those with Type 2 diabetes who require insulin. For more information, call 1-610-642-6055, go to integrateddiabetes.com or write email@example.com
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