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How Long Should You Keep Your Open Insulin Vials?

by The GoodRx Pharmacist on April 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm

With so many different insulin and insulin-like products out there these days it can be hard to keep track of when your vial should be tossed.

Depending on your dose, you may still have insulin left in your vial by the manufacturer-recommended time to throw it away. If this sounds like a familiar situation, know that it is important to throw away your vial regardless of whether you have any leftover.

You might think it is wasteful to throw out what you may consider “perfectly good insulin,” but using the medication past the recommended time can actually do you more harm than good.

You may notice that if you continue to use insulin from a vial past the manufacturers discard date, your blood glucose could be higher or a greater dose may be needed to achieve a normal blood glucose reading.

There are several different types of insulin and a variety of other injectable diabetes medications, and the recommendations for how long they keep varies.

For a quick overview, the different categories of insulin are:

  • Rapid-acting
  • Short-acting (regular)
  • Intermediate-acting
  • Long-acting

So how long can you hold on to your insulin after you start using a vial?

Rapid-acting insulin

  • Novolog: use within 28 days after puncturing vial
  • Humalog: use within 28 days after puncturing vial
  • Apidra: use within 28 days after puncturing vial

Short-acting insulin

  • Humulin R: use within 31 days after puncturing vial
  • Humulin R U-500 concentrated: use within 31 days after puncturing vial
  • Novolin R: use within 42 days after puncturing vial

Intermediate-acting insulin

  • Humulin N: use within 1 month after puncturing vial
  • Novolin N: use within 1 month after puncturing vial

Long-acting insulin

  • Lantus: use within 28 days after puncturing vial
  • Levemir: use within 42 days after puncturing vial

Other injectable diabetes medications in vials

  • Bydureon: use immediately once the vial has been punctured and the powder mixed

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