Rationale of the Week | How long are these insulin pens good for?
For last week’s practice question, we quizzed participants on insulin storage guidelines. 55% of respondents chose the best answer. We want to clarify and share this important information, so you can pass it on to people living with diabetes and your colleagues, plus prepare for exam success!
Before we start though, if you don’t want any spoilers and haven’t tried the question yet, you can answer it below: Answer Question
JR has a bunch of insulin pens at home and is wondering if they are still good to use. Most of the unopened insulin pens are stored in the fridge, but JR has 2 degludec (Tresiba) pens that they left out of the refrigerator by accident. They ask you if they are still good. What is the most accurate response for the shelf life of degludec (Tresiba) pens stored at room temperature of up to 86 degrees Fahrenheit?
In general, insulin pens expire after 10-14 days at room temperature.
Insulin kept for more than 28 days at room temperature needs to be discarded.
JR can put the degludec (Tresiba) back in the refrigerator and use it until the expiration date.
Degludec (Tresiba) can be safely stored at room temperature for up to 56 days.
Getting to the Best Answer
In general, insulin pens expire after 10-14 days at room temperature. (incorrect) 11% of respondents chose this juicy answer. However, degludec has one of the longest shelf lives at room temperature due to its pharmacokinetics. NPH and premixed insulin like 70/30 insulins have a shorter shelf life of 10-14 days. You can refer to our Insulin Storage Guidelines or package inserts for more information.
Insulin kept for more than 28 days at room temperature needs to be discarded. (incorrect) About 25% of respondents chose this answer. Most bolus insulins have a shelf life of about 28 days whether they are stored in an insulin pen or vial. But many basal and concentrated insulins have a longer shelf life. NPH and premixed insulin like 70/30 insulins have a shorter shelf life of 10-14 days. Given the cost of insulin, this is important information to share with people living with diabetes, so they are aware of accurate insulin storage guidelines. You can refer to our Insulin Storage Guidelines or package inserts for more information.
JR can put the degludec (Tresiba) back in the refrigerator and use it until the expiration date. (incorrect) 9% of respondents chose this answer, however, it is not an accurate answer. Once insulin is left out at room temperature, the clock starts ticking and with time, the potency of the insulin diminishes. For insulin degludec, the shelf life is 56 days outside of the refrigerator. If JR isn’t sure how long the insulin has been sitting out, they can look at the box Rx label or contact their pharmacy and find out what day the insulin was dispensed. You can refer to our Insulin Storage Guidelines or package inserts for more information.
Degludec (Tresiba) can be safely stored at room temperature for up to 56 days. (correct). YES, this is the BEST answer and 55% of you chose this answer. Degludec along with Toujeo (Lantus U-300) can both be stored at room temperature for up to 56 days. You can refer to our Insulin Storage Guidelines or package inserts for more information.
Practical Clinical Pointers: Of course, these are general storage guidelines and if people using insulin notice blood sugars climbing despite adequate insulin dosing, it can be a sign the insulin has lost its potency. Sometimes, people on a budget might decide to keep using insulin past the expiration date. In either case, we can advise individuals to switch to a new insulin vial or pen right away if they notice blood sugars unexplainably trending up.
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