Type1 survival, uninsured, taboo, expired insulin

As a 25+ type1 diabetic who hasn’t had medical insurance for the 20 years , I’ve had to work hard to obtain my supplies and insulin. In my latest efforts to obtain humalog insulin , my resource for insulin was not available, all that was available was novolog pens, so I took them with the intention to transfer into a vial and fill my pump reservoir. Upon this process I saw the novolog is five years after the expiration… I thought wow… What to do, I researched and all results say, not good. So what, do I take nothing? Of corse not… I put 100units in my pump and went into diagnostic mode which is to check blood glucose very often (every three hours) until I determined that I was stable. Well the 5years expired insulin works just fine. I don’t think the drug company does any research after the 30day expiration they label with. This even further reinforces my distrust and disgust with the medical field and drug companies which won’t release patents for generic insulin , and continue to have greed be the motivating factor to treat type diabetes.


The following is not medical advice. With the exception of antibiotics, I’ve been known to take medication long (significantly longer than 5 years) after the expiration date and have found it to be just as effective as “unexpired” medication. I believe the key is to keep storage conditions optimal (in the dark without extremes in temperature). When it comes to my daughter’s insulin, she goes through it too quickly for us to have any coming close to the expiration date. As I try to build up an emergency supply in anticipation of the Zombie Apocalypse (it’s only a matter of time), I will rotate the older vials out for current use.


I had a high school internship in the stability lab of a large pharmaceutical manufacturer. They test everything about a drug, down to the tiniest detail. In the dark but hot? In the sun and hot? In the sun and cold? Shaken for hours?etc. including every permutation and combination you can think of. And then they test the drug to see how it does. Unless there’s a very special reason, they don’t let a drug out unless it is stable as hell. And if it isn’t, they make sure everyone knows about it, i.e. insulin and heat. Expiration date stability is a standard part of the drill.

I worked specifically with a common drug that’s in most cold medications, but the same is true of everything else sold for the American market. I’m not sure how it works in other countries.

1 Like

along the same line as Cate’s post, it could be a bogus expiration date applied during a production run which should have resulted in the batch with the bad date being scrapped - probably are restrictions on meddling with exp. dates once applied. A secondary market for drugs is likely to exist illegally in every country as greedy @#$! are not limited to big pharma.

it would be awesome to be able to test the potency of the insulin you are obtaining prior to risking your BG control - wonder if such a thing could be done? any jr. chemists out there?

keep working on legal channel funding through Charitable funding - long term, the stress of what you are doing now will take it’s toll.

I have used insulin that is very old. I only ever throw it out when I can see impurities in it. I’ve never given much creed to the throw it our after 30 days. From experience I have found insulin to last many years past the expiration date.

1 Like

Like canned goods, they can only guarantee results during the prescribed period after that effectiveness my be compromised.

I actually asked my endo about this and he said maybe 6 months past the date would be ok

Since so many people seem to worry needlessly about insulin expiring, I wanted to demonstrate something.

This insulin expired December 2013 (expired OVER 3 years ago). Also, I removed it from the refrigerator and left it at room temperature for 2 1/2 months.

I had no IOB when I did this. I drank a sugar soft drink with 43 grams of sugar.

I took 7 units of the expired insulin. It is more than I would normally take for a sugar soda, but since the insulin was old and unrefrigerated, I took a bit more just in case it was weaker. I took the insulin with a normal subcu shot, not intramuscular or intravenous.

Here is my BG trace from the event. The drop was so extreme I had to eat a chocolate doughnut around 11am - another 24 grams of carbs.

I did BG checks along the way and they mirrored the Dexcom pretty close, with just a little bit of the normal lead time.

2 1/2 hours after I started this experiment - with no further dosing from anything else - I was at 55 and need several more doughnuts.

So 7 units of unrefrigerated “expired” insulin 3 years past the date, and about 140 grams of fast acting sugar carbs.

Relax with the refrigeration concerns and the expiration dates. Those are FDA requirements for labeling. Insulin lasts way past the expiration date, and not refrigerating it causes no problems either. Look at the CGM.

I did this with Humalog. Not sure how it would be with other insulins, but I suspect NovoLog would probably be similar. Freezing the insulin would kill it, and I suspect light would be harmful. I also suspect Apidra is more fragile than NovoLog or Humalog.


Over the years I have found novonordisks Insulins literally last forever they are very robust the same for humalog. I never throw Insulin out unless it is visually degraded. I rarely keep it in a fridge either, so I’m not surprised at all.


wow! that was a bold experiment. I have some 8 month expired Apidra, and for the past 6 months I’ve thought about giving it a try…

1 Like

Try it and test a bunch. It won’t hurt you.

1 Like

I think I will try it next time I plan on taking a correction by injection. I’ll let you know

I am glad I read these posts. I have several boxes of Novolog and Levemir that either are recently expired or will expire in a month or two. I was planning to discard them, now I will not. I have tried to stockpile a few because at times I have a very hard time getting my prescriptions from doctor’s office. In the past I have had to decrease my insulin doses down so much my BG’s were awful. I just got everything back on track and I want to keep it that way. Thank you!


Those numbers are indeed very conservative guidelines. There are lots of reasons why they are chosen as they are. Sometimes it’s done in reaction to liability concerns. Sometimes it happens because they know how long the product will really last but are required to assign some kind of date, so they simply choose a safe one that sounds “reasonable” and is unlikely to raise any eyebrows. For whatever the reason, they are indeed very conservative, so your experience isn’t all that surprising. There is indeed generally a safety margin, which is a good thing to know.

Thats terrible that you have had to be in that position JoAnn2, but I’m really glad you have discovered this here today.

@Eric2 Where the heck have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you. We truly miss you on this board.
Did you leave for any particular reason?

Hey Doc!
Yes, there was a reason. But you will have to ask some other people what it was!

But are you hanging out somewhere else now? Because I’ve looked at all the other D forums and no one there fits your description.

Hey Doc,
I will PM you my phone number and we can talk all about it!

1 Like

Eddie!! Glad you’re back!!! :blush:

1 Like