Type 1 diabetes comes with many challenges. One we didn’t expect to navigate was pharmacist error when it comes to insulin storage.
Most everyone affected by Type 1 diabetes knows that insulin should remain in the refrigerator until put to use; otherwise, it can lose its potency or not work at all as it spoils. Pharmacists should be trained to know this fact, as well, but we have found that some don’t, or that some don’t use best practices when it comes to insulin storage.
We are on our third pharmacy since my daughter was diagnosed. The first pharmacy failed to refrigerate my daughter’s box of insulin pens, and we paid a heavy price for the error. When we picked up the pens, my daughter noticed that the the box was at room temperature, but I assured her it would probably be all right. I was wrong, and she ended up in the hospital with high blood sugar levels. They traced the problem back to the insulin; it had most likely gone bad.
At a second pharmacy, a pharmacist handed my daughter her insulin pens straight from the counter. My daughter objected, saying to the pharmacist that the insulin should be coming straight from the refrigerator. She was told that it wouldn’t be a problem as long as she used up all five pens in 28 days, which isn’t necessarily correct. My daughter countered that she does not usually go through the pens in 28 days. The pharmacy staff persisted, and my daughter burst into tears, afraid she would end up in the hospital again. Reluctantly, the pharmacist gave in and changed out her box of insulin for a refrigerated one.
We stayed with this pharmacy after this incident, but they went on to make the same mistake again. Again, my daughter asked them to replace it with a refrigerated box. This time they did it right away, but as they swapped out boxes, they then put the room-temperature box of insulin right back in the refrigerator.
That was enough for us to move on to our third pharmacy, where we now pick up our insulin. This time we interviewed the pharmacy staff on how to handle insulin before switching over the prescription. We may have appeared overly strident, but we felt we could no longer assume competency as a given. They passed the test, and I feel confident we’ve found a pharmacy we can work with for the long term.
I share this not to berate the pharmacy profession, but to empower people in the diabetes community to make sure they are having their insulin prescriptions filled safely. If it seems like your insulin goes bad, check with the pharmacy about storage procedures. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you learn the pharmacy is not practicing proper care of your insulin, and be bold in questioning those who will be filling the prescription. It can be a matter of life or death.
Have you encountered pharmacies that don’t follow correct protocol for insulin storage? Email what happened to our editor, Craig Idlebrook, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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