Insulin pens are easy to use and easy to carry around. They don’t take as long to set up as syringes.
Insulin pens are similar in size and shape to a writing pen. They make measuring and injecting your insulin easier and you can give your injection discretely. Most pens hold 300 units of insulin and allow delivery of up to 60–80 units at a time.
Most insulins are available as pens. There are 2 types – reusable pens and disposable pens.
With reusable pens you can replace the insulin cartridge (also called penfills). When the cartridge runs out or expires, it is removed from the pen, thrown away and a new cartridge is fitted into the same pen.
In New Zealand, insulin is supplied by Novo Nordisk, Eli Lilly and Sanofi-Aventis. It is important to use the correct insulin brand in the correct pen, eg, Lilly pen will use Lilly insulin cartridges, a Novo-Nordisk pen will use Novo-Nordisk insulin cartridges, etc. Reusable pens are available at no cost from diabetes clinics and pharmacies.
These pens have an insulin cartridge pre-fitted into the pen that can't be removed. When the insulin runs out, the pen is thrown away and a new pen is needed.
Insulin pen needles
Insulin pens are not pre-fitted with needles. A suitably sized needle has to be attached to the pen. In New Zealand, pen needles from 4 mm to 12.7 mm in length are available. The recommended pen needle size to use is 4mm.
- Current guidelines recommend 4 mm pen needles in adults and children regardless of age, sex, ethnicity or BMI, because they are long enough to pass through your skin and into the subcutaneous tissue, with little risk of IM (or intradermal) injection.
- A 5 mm pen needle may also be acceptable for people who are obese.
- Needles greater than 6 mm are no longer recommended because the needle may pass through the fatty skin layer and inject deeper into your muscle.
A new needle should be used with every injection. In New Zealand you can have 200 subsidised needles. If you need more than 200 needles in a 3-month period, you will need an additional prescription, and this will still be free.
How to use an insulin pen
Your healthcare provider will show you how to use your insulin pen. The following steps are a guide.
|The following is a a guide to using your insulin pen. If you are unsure about any steps, check with your healthcare provider.|
|Wash your hands with soap and water before an injection
|Prime the pen
|Select the dose
|Inject the dose by depressing the plunger
| After the injection, remove the needle from the pen