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Insulin Pens: A Safer Advantage

Diabetes is a complex disease; affecting 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the U.S. population. In 2011 the CDC estimated that 17.8 % of those diagnosed with diabetes used insulin to help treat their condition. Individualized insulin doses as well as complex administration regimens is one reason The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) placed insulin on a list of “High-alert Medications” because of its potential to cause serious patient harm if given in error. It is no surprise that medication errors associated with insulin are responsible for 80% of inpatient errors and 10% of all harmful drug errors.

A number of facilities across the country have decided to replace the traditional insulin vial and syringe system with insulin pens throughout their facilities. There are several good reasons that nurses should be excited about this change:
  • Improved accuracy of dose administration
  • Better management of the insulin delivery process
  • Reduced potential for medication storage issues related to expired insulin
  • Improved resident outcomes when transitioning to a lower level of care that includes self administration
  • Decreased medication cost and reduced waste with expired or unused insulin
When using the insulin pens it is important to remember:
  • NEVER share prefilled insulin pens among patients
  • The needle should be discarded each time the pen is used
  • The beginning date of use should be placed on the pen
  • Each pen must display the individual’s name on the unit itself (not the cap)
With any change there is always a learning curve but, with this change, we can expect easier administration of insulin, less chance of medication errors and more importantly better patient care.

1. CDC National Diabetes statistics Report, 2014, Retrieved online from http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pubs/statsreport14/national-diabetes-report-web.pdf. 10/01/14
2. CDC, Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Age-Adjusted Percentage of Adults with Diabetes Using Diabetes Medication, by Type of Medication, United States, 1997–2011 http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/meduse/fig2.htm. accessed 10/01/14
3. Institute for Safe Medication Practices. ISMP’s list of high-alert medications. Available at: http://www.ismp.org/Tools/highalertmedications.pdf. Accessed February 19, 2009.
4. Cohen MR, Smetzer JL, Tuohy NR, Kilo CM. High-alert medications: safeguarding against errors. In: Cohen MR, ed. Medication Errors. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmacists Association;2007
5. Amori RE, Pittas AG, Siegel RD, et al. Inpatient medical errors involving glucose-lowering medications and the impact on patients: review of 2,598 incidents from a voluntary electronic error-reporting database. EndocrPract. 2008;14:535-542.
6. United States Pharmacopeia. MEDMARX 5th anniversary data report. A chartbook of 2003 findings and trends 1999-2003. Rockville, Md: US Pharmacopeia.

Original post may be found on alixaRX.com archived newsletter.

Guest Post by Dr. Albert Barber:

Dr. Barber is a Director of Pharmacy Services for alixaRx, a national long-term care pharmacy. He is responsible for clinical education and works on regulatory affairs for alixaRx. Previously he was Director of Pharmacy for Golden Living, a provider of long-term and post-acute care for residents needing skilled nursing and assisted living services. He currently serves as the clinical consultant pharmacist for Golden Living Kirtland, Ohio. Al also provides drug therapy consultations to seniors living in the community through his consulting practice, Clinical Rx Consulting. Primary areas of practice include: post-acute care, geriatrics, psychopharmacology, and pain management.

Al is a Past-President of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP). He also serves as national faculty for the APhA Medication Therapy Management Certificate Program.

Pedagogy offers several online continuing education courses addressing the management of diabetes.

Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion in Long Term Care (CSII) – An online course for the licensed nurse.

Diabetes: An Introduction- An online course for the licensed nurse.

Diabetes: An Introduction for Administrators – an online accredited continuing education course for long term care and assisted living administrators.

Click on each title to learn more about the accredited CE course.
Posted: 1/7/2015 1:04:02 PM
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