Safety Alert: Are You Using Your Pen Needles Properly?

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In case you missed it, last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has alerted patients and their caregivers and healthcare providers about proper usage of standard pen needles in their pen injectors after receiving reports of some patients not using them correctly when injecting insulin.

The problem is that, after they remove the standard pen needle’s outer cover, some patients don’t realize they need to remove an inner needle cover as well. Not removing the inner cover prevents the needle from penetrating the skin, resulting in patients not getting their insulin, which can cause high blood sugar. One person who unknowingly used a standard pen needle with the inner cover intact died due to having prolonged high blood sugar.

WHAT ELSE YOU SHOULD KNOW: The problem may lie with confusion between a standard pen needle and a safety pen needle. Unlike standard pens, safety needles have fixed inner needle shields so you remove an outer cap only; there’s no inner cap to remove. If you were trained to use a safety pen needle and are then switched to a standard needle without warning, you may not know to remove the second cap.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: If you use a pen needle, follow these instructions from the FDA:

  • Check each new box of needles to see whether they’re the same type you were trained to use. If they’re not, ask your doctor to demonstrate how to use them properly.
  • Remember to remove both the outer and inner covers if you use a standard pen needle.
  • If you suspect that the medicine from your injector isn’t working, tell your doctor. For example, if your blood sugar remains high after insulin injections, the drug may not be entering your body.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about pen needles, including questions about your technique and dosage.

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