What Should I do with Expired Insulin

If you know any diabetics, you know how vital insulin is for their well-being. It can be life-sustaining for someone who needs it, and very expensive to keep around. That’s why many people liked to buy it in bulk from other countries or buy enough to keep on hand in case of an emergency.

Insulin that has reached its expiration date can be thrown away, given to animal clinics or doctors’ offices, donated privately, or dumped into the trash safely to avoid being confused with the non-expired insulin containers. Expired insulin is less-potent, but some choose to continue using it.

It can be so difficult to buy insulin and use it exactly when it needs to be used. What can you do with the old insulin that you haven’t used? Surely there must be something useful that it can do even after the expiration date has already passed.

What Is Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by a healthy pancreas that enables the body’s cells to use glucose. When the body is unable to produce its own insulin hormone it cannot properly ingest foods with sugar in them. There are several different kinds of insulin that are manufactured for injection. The main kinds of insulin include various kinds of rapid-acting, short-acting, long-acting, or intermediate-acting insulins. Consulting with a physician can get you the best recommendations for your body’s needs. (Source)

How Do Insulin Expiration Dates Work?

Insulin vials or pens have two dates of expiration on them. One is printed on the insulin pen which tells you how long it should last in the appropriate temperatures, while the other is how much time you have once the pen or vial has been opened to use it before it goes bad. Insulin should last up to 28 days or even 40 days after being opened. The types that last until 40 days after opening are fewer and farther between.

The reason that insulin becomes expired is that it loses its potency after a time. Insulin manufacturers are required to keep potency between 90-95% by the FDA. So, when you see that expiration date coming up, you can know that it’s reaching its non-potency or at least, less-potent stage of life. The drug that you use needs to meet all of the quality standards set up by drug manufacturers and regulators alike.

What To Do With Expired Insulin

Surprisingly insulin has not lost all of its value after the expiration date. If the insulin has been unopened, you could ask a few local Doctors’ offices if they would accept expired insulin. Another option is animal clinics or hospitals. They are working with smaller patients in general, so, less-potent insulin isn’t as much of a problem for them. The last option for giving away expired insulin would be asking any of your friends or acquaintances if they need it. My grandmother and her sisters often trade insulin when they’re running low, or if they don’t want any excess insulin that they might have.

Note that it is technically illegal to share prescriptions that haven’t been prescribed between parties and this would be considered by some authorities as underground or a black market if they’re being traded privately in that way.

Using Expired Insulin

There is another way that some diabetics use, which is using expired insulin. This is not recommended by doctors or insulin producers, by any means, but some say that it works just fine for them. Many people with diabetes take the risk and use the insulin that has reached its expiration date. Those who do feel that it’s simply wasteful, and try to avoid spending more than they have to on this life-saving drug. Even one doctor who has type 1 diabetes uses old insulin 3 years past its expiration date for his condition, acknowledging that it is a risk, but that it’s calculated.

My grandmother who’s diabetic says that you can use it until it becomes a cloudy or milky color. Once it’s reached that point, it’s gone bad. She said that she was still using one that was expired because it was still working for her even though it was a few months past its expiration date marked on the packaging. Insulin should be clear like water when it’s good, so, don’t let it get past that point, and you should be fine. She said sometimes it will be clear, but if she uses it and notices that her sugar is still going up, she knows that that one isn’t good to use any longer. (Source)

Mail-Back Program

Many manufacturers have programs where you can dispose of used insulin injectors by mailing the used insulin back in a special container where it will be received and safely disposed of at the manufacturing facility. All that you need to do is call the company or visit their website to see their options and subscribe to the program.

Properly Disposing of Insulin At Home

Insulin should be relatively harmless if ingested, although, it’s a good idea to keep it away from children and animals by mixing the liquid in something unappealing and taking steps to keep it away from their reach. You can follow these suggestions to safely dispose of insulin at home.

  1. Remove the insulin from the original container
  2. Put the liquid into a container that is easily sealed such as a childproof bottle.
  3. Mix it with something unsavory, like charcoal, soap, or coffee grounds so that children or animals won’t be tempted to rummage through it.
  4. You may want to wrap it in an additional bag or wrapping to prevent it from leaking or being torn into.
  5. Throw away the old insulin and remove any contact information that you might have on the original insulin’s packaging.

Make sure that you always put the caps back on your insulin pens or needles. Some public bathrooms have a special bin where diabetics can drop off their needles to keep potential needles out of the trashcan where they can be a danger to those cleaning the bathrooms. At home, you may not have a dedicated sharps bucket, but if you don’t it’s a good idea to get one so that you don’t have to deal with potential pricks from within your garbage bag. Oakridge sells them fairly cheap on Amazon in varying sizes such as one quart or five-quart buckets. (Source)

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