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Appropriate storage of Insulin essential during power cuts and travelling: Dr Satinath Mukhopadhyay

Desk Correspondent, abptakmaa, Kolkata, 24th June 2020 : Recently, cyclone Amphan led to a widespread power outage in West Bengal, leading to difficulties in storing insulin by people with diabetes, pharmacists and stockists. Patients were unable to store insulin in the freezer. They stopped injecting themselves, leading to a wide upsurge in blood glucose levels that resulted in significant ill health and at least one death. While insulin that is not in use, needs to be stored between 4-8 degrees Celsius, the vials or cartridges in use can be kept safely at room temperature, away from sunlight, for about 4 to 6 weeks. Hence a few days or hours of power cuts experienced would be unlikely to lead to a significant loss in the potency of insulin. Rather than discarding stocks, they can be safely used within the next four weeks. Therefore it is important to state that there is no reason why patients should stop taking insulin kept without refrigeration for a few days.  

Dr Satinath Mukhopadhyay, Professor, Dept of Endocrinology & Metabolism, IPME&R and SSKM Hospital, Kolkata, shared essential guidelines on the proper storage of insulin at home, “While it is generally advised that vials and cartridges of insulin not in use should be stored at 4-8 degrees centigrade to maintain potency, one must also realize that insulin remains stable at room temperature (<30°C) for around four weeks. Hence the widely spread rumour that all stored insulin supplies will lose their potency without refrigeration for a few days is mostly unfounded. Simple household techniques, such as using a bowl of water, small clay pot or earthenware utensil to store the unopened insulin vials or cartridges, can be used. The bowl should be protected from direct sunlight, and the water level should be kept below the neck of the insulin container to prevent any leakage or contamination.”  

“It is strictly forbidden to store insulin in the freezers (deep freeze) because it leads to loss of potency of insulin, a protein that loses its blood glucose-lowering property on exposure to extremes of temperatures, i.e., below 4°C and above 40°C. Wrapping the household insulin containers in a cool, wet cloth is another alternative to keep it at the recommended temperature. Make sure that insulin is the last thing which you buy while you are out in the market and the first thing to be stored once back at home so that the cold chain is maintained. Once an insulin vial/pen is opened for use, it should be kept at room temperature. Only unopened vials/pens should be kept in the refrigerator. Insulin pens containing cloudy insulin should be held horizontally during storage, and those containing clear insulin can be stored either vertically/horizontally. While travelling, store the insulin vial/pen in a pouch with a refrigerated coolant gel pack or cooled thermos flasks with ice if the ambient temperature is expected to be higher than 30°C. While travelling by air, insulin should not be placed in the checked-in baggage to avoid exposure to extreme temperatures. Do not store your insulin near extreme heat or extreme cold. Never keep insulin in the freezer, direct sunlight or in the glove compartment of a car. Lastly, never leave the needle attached to the insulin pen and do not use expired insulin even when stored properly.”, advised Dr. Satinath Mukhopadhyay. Publicity : Carpediem Communique.

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