Packaging Practices Represent a Major Waste of Insulin

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By: Letter from a Reader

For more than fifty years, I have been a type 1 diabetic. I am writing to bringattention to the fact that huge amounts of insulin are wasted due to the insulinpackaging practices of the pharmaceutical industry.

Today, U.S. insulins are packaged either in ten-milliliter vials (eachcontaining 1000 units of U-100) or in three-milliliter pen cartridges (eachcontaining 300 units of U-100 insulin). That's considerably more than many type1 diabetics (and some type 2s) require. For example, my daily insulin dose isonly 20 units (600 units per month).

Since today's fast-acting insulins must bediscarded 28 days after opening, my vials still contain more than one-third oftheir original insulin when I have to throw them out. I also end up wastingnearly 800 units of Lantus (injected at bedtime) every month. And depending uponhow many times I use the insulin pen (a great help away from home), there isadditional waste.

These packaging practices represent a major waste of insulin, resulting inincreased costs not only to the millions of diabetics, but also to third partiessuch as health insurance companies and government agencies. I recently broughtthis issue to the attention of the ADA. Here is their response: "The AmericanDiabetes Association does not have a position on insulin packaging by the different pharmaceutical companies. You can voice your concerns…with theircustomer service departments." I also called the FDA, but have received noreply.

In my opinion, insulin packaging will change only if professional and layorganizations and the FDA jointly bring pressure on the insulin manufacturers.I'm willing to do my part.

Sincerely,
William J. Jasper, DDS, MPH
Raleigh, North Carolina

Editor-in-Chief replies: I agree. Let's write to the companiesand get after them to cut down on this insulin waste.

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