Did you know insulin is a biohazard?


As we approach the eve of Diabetes Month, November, I think it funny that my recent episode with my insulin pen ended up the way it did. 

Last month I spent ten days in Scandinavia. I packed all my diabetes supplies and I had a few days left on my Lantus Solostar insulin pen and packed a second pen. 

When I went to use my new Solostar pen, the pen jammed: I couldn’t press the plunger and get any insulin out of it. This has never happened to me before. Given this had been my back up pen (well, for the first few days of my trip) I had no back up pen. 

My husband and I went to a local pharmacy in Copenhagen where the pharmacist was very friendly and accommodating and said, even without a prescription she would sell my a new Lantus Solostar pen. The trouble was I couldn’t get one. They come in boxes of five and I would have to purchase five pens for the equivalent of $120.

Well, that was not my idea of salvation, so I decided I would just withdraw the insulin from my pen with a syringe until I got home. And that’s exactly what I did and basically it worked fine. 

The funny thing is when I got home I called the number for the Solostar pen to register an adverse event and I was told I would be sent a replacement pen, thank you very much, and I might need to return the faulty pen so they could see what went wrong. FYI, the rep told me on the phone, chances were the pen needle somehow was blocked, which caused pressure to build up in the pen and didn’t allow the plunger button to work.

Two weeks later a huge box arrives at my door. It contains what you see here. A number of bags marked “biohazard” and a tube. I am to put my Solostar pen in the tube, and then put the tube in the clear bag and then put the clear bag in a paper bag and then put the paper bag in a box. 

I am aware it is law that when someone is dispensing insulin in a hospital they must be accompanied by another someone. Yet, it struck me as funny. We, who live with diabetes and use insulin, do so so casually, we would never think of it as a biohazard. That is not to dismiss insulin’s side effects – possible low blood sugar which can be dangerous. But the every day taking of insulin, is something we do all the time and don’t have to put on a zoot suite to do so. 

It’s just a little strange when the scientists decide insulin cannot be handled in transport other than locking it in three vessels because it is potentially so dangerous. 

Ah, just another example of the disconnect between those in the lab and those of us on the ground.

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