Insulin Pen Needles and Syringes are “Disposable Items” Our Experience in Subsaharan Africa

The Insulin Needles for insulin pens is clearly written by manufacturers that it is Disposable. This means after a single use it should be discarded.

If one has a box of 100 pieces and he uses twice daily injection, that will be fifty days. Hygienically it is better, more healthier to comply with this directive but unfortunately economically speaking, this advice is not pocket friendly especially for patients living with diabetes on insulin in Subsaharan Africa.

Some people use the insulin pen needle up to ten times, some fifteen times or others who want to be moderate five times and for the affluent about twice daily. This is a challenge that is being ignored and the gross effect is increased incidence of ulcers especially on the thighs or around areas where insulin is administered.

Recently, I was had the opportunity to attend a seminar on insulin administration and injection devices. I saw electron microscope slides of insulin pen needles following use once, twice, thrice till the tenth times. It was amazing how rough and dangerous the needle looks following each use. The needle undergo gradual wear and tire as the usage times increases. This explains why the muscles are torn and bleeding is often noticed and also the frequent ulcers around the injection sites.

Having noticed this anomaly, the weight of the awareness is how can you tell someone to do something he or she knows but doesn’t have the financial muscle to decide? When I came back from the workshop, I started telling people that the ideal number of times to use the disposable needle for the same person is once but if you don’t have the finance try twice. Many people listen to me may be because am a diabetes Educator but I do see some doubt and since of no commitment on some faces because the don’t have the finance to continually buy them. One piece of insulin pen needle on the average is sold at 50cent per one in some places it may be up to 80cents. I want to call on the manufacturers to try any way they can to reduce the cost of this accessories as a way of alleviating the burden of people living with diabetes especially in Subsaharan Africa.

These are our challenges what are your experiences concerning this issue from other parts of the world?how long do you use your needle?

Even in affluent western countries it is common to re-use lancets until they become dull, and re-use syringe needles multiple times.

To some of us old-timers (e.g. those of us who were taught back in the days when you boiled your glass insulin syringe between each use), changing the lancet every time is a mark of a “newbie” :-).


I use my needles once and then dispose of them in a sharps container. As for the lancets, I change mine about once a week and the used one goes into my sharps container.