13 November 2018

Storing insulin in home fridges may lower effectiveness

How you store your insulin could affect its effectiveness.

Many people with diabetes store their insulin at the wrong temperature in their fridge and that could reduce its effectiveness, a new study says.

Insulin should be stored in a refrigerator at between two to eight degrees Celsius, and at two to 30 degrees Celsius when carried by the patient in a pen or vial, the researchers said.

Even though diabetics often store insulin in fridges at home for several months before they use it, little is known about how this affects insulin quality, the researchers explained.

This study included 388 diabetes patients in the United States and Europe who placed temperature sensors next to their insulin in the fridge and/or their diabetes bag. The sensors measured temperatures every three minutes (up to 480 times a day), and data was collected for an average of 49 days.

Research findings

An analysis of 400 temperature logs (230 for refrigerated and 170 for carried insulin) showed that 315 (79%) had deviations from the recommended temperature ranges.

On average, insulin stored in the fridge was out of the recommended temperature range 11% of the time (equal to two hours and 34 minutes a day), while insulin carried by patients was only outside recommendations for around eight minutes a day.

Freezing was an even bigger problem, with 66 sensors (17%) recording temperatures below zero degrees Celsius, equivalent to three hours a month on average, according to the study.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, which concluded on 5 October 2018 in Berlin. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Many people with diabetes are unwittingly storing their insulin wrong because of fluctuating temperatures in domestic refrigerators," said study author Katarina Braune, who is with Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin in Germany.

"When storing your insulin in the fridge at home, always use a thermometer to check the temperature," she advised in a meeting news release. "Long-term storage conditions of insulin are known to have an impact on its blood-glucose lowering effect."

"More research is needed to examine the extent to which temperature deviations during domestic storage affect insulin efficacy and patient outcomes," she concluded.

Image credit: iStock 


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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