Insulin pens for diabetes management on the go
Not many years ago, those who took insulin to control diabetes often carried a small bag of paraphernalia with them. That included insulin vials, some sort of coolant to keep the insulin vials at a safe temperature, syringes, a way to dispose of the needles, and a wide variety of other things that were necessary to take regular injections. So it's safe to say that millions of those with diabetes rejoiced when the insulin pen hit the market.
Insulin pen basics
An insulin pen is a small insulin dosing system that looks like a large pen or marker. Small enough to slip into your pocket or purse, insulin pens contain a vial of insulin and a thin needle for injections. In most pens, you simply "dial up" the correct dosage, remove the cap and inject yourself with the insulin. The process takes only seconds and is much easier than drawing insulin up from a glass vial into a manual syringe. The insulin pen does not need refrigeration, so the days of carrying a small cooler around are over.
There are many great points to insulin pens, but it would be remiss not to mention the few downsides. Not all insulin types are available in pen form, including some mixed insulin. Because of their design, small amounts of insulin are wasted. Insulin pens might also be more expensive than the traditional vial and syringe method of injection.
Types of insulin pens
Though insulin pens all work in the same simple way, there are many types to choose from. Some pens come with a prefilled cartridge that allows you to simply dispose of the pen when it's empty. Others have refillable cartridges so you can keep your favorite pen with you for years. Cartridges come in capacities from 100 mL to 300 mL. Depending upon your dosing size, you might be able to use an insulin pen for several days or weeks before the insulin is used up.
No matter the insulin pen you use, you traditionally need a good supply of needles for injection. These needles range in length and gauge, with the highest gauge being the thinnest. Just as a syringe should be disposed of properly after each injection, insulin pen needles should be used only once.
Do these insulin pens sound familiar?
In 1989, Novo Nordisk brought NovoLet to the market. The first prefilled insulin syringe, it was the forerunner of the very popular FlexPen, which was launched in 2001. Since then, insulin pens have become even smaller and easier to use, and many companies now have competing brands on the market. A few of these include:
- Eli Lilly. The Humalog Kwikpen and Humapen Luxura HD
- Novo Nordisk. The FlexPen and NovoPen
- Sanofi-Aventis. The SoloStar and Apidra
- Owen Mumford. The Autopen and Autopen Classic
If you are constantly on the go or prefer an easier insulin delivery system than traditional syringes and vials, the insulin pen might be the next big thing in your diabetes care arsenal. Your doctor can help you decide which insulin pen is right for you.