Can You Reuse Insulin Needles? Here’s the Best Advice!

Posted January 25, 2021 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Tempted to reuse insulin needles? Well, you’re not the first. Or perhaps you already do? It’s a question posed by many diabetic patients.

So, here’s the guide on whether you can reuse insulin needles. Let’s start with the quick response, then we’ll go into understanding why.

Can you reuse insulin needles? Insulin pen needles are intended for single use only, but medical research is mixed in its view. Some suggest it’s safe to use up to 4 or 5 times, and others point out associated risks. It’s a question of individual choice as to whether you reuse an insulin needle. Consult your doctor before reusing.  

Now that we’ve got the quick summary, we can more easily understand whether you can reuse insulin needles. Let’s first explore more about the history of insulin needles and how their design development has shaped their use.  

Insulin Needle History

Over the years, manufacturers have made dramatic improvements in the comfort and convenience of insulin injections. 

In the early history of insulin, diabetic patients used glass syringes with detachable needles to inject insulin. The needles used in the 1920s to inject insulin were considered reusable. So, the needle would need to be boiled after each use to sterilize it.

A pumice stone was used during this time to sharpen the needles. This is because, after multiple uses, the needle would become dull, which can cause discomfort when injecting.

Introduction of Disposable Insulin Needles 

The first insulin pen was developed around 1985. Many advances in insulin delivery have been made since then.

Using a vial and syringe to inject insulin is still fairly popular today. However, the improvement of how insulin syringes have been made has provided much more convenience for diabetes patients.

Patients no longer have to reuse their insulin needles, nor do they have to boil or sharpen their needles anymore.

Disposable syringes had much thinner needles and greatly improved needle points, giving a brand new lubricated needle for every injection. 

With these improvements, patients can more comfortably inject the insulin they need. They are also now at a decreased risk of having injection site reactions and infections that were more prevalent many years ago.

Why do People Reuse Insulin Needles? 

Today, it’s recognized that the reuse of insulin needles is not uncommon. As someone that has been living with type 1 diabetes, I am guilty of this. Much of the reasoning for doing this comes from the convenience of it. Some may call it laziness and others may call it efficient!

Convenience is the most popular reason for reusing insulin needles 

Although many might think the reduction in cost might be one of the main reasons diabetics look to reuse their needles, the most common reason for reuse of insulin needles is not the cost.

Insulin pen needles are relatively inexpensive, so if patients were reusing needles to save money, they really aren’t saving a substantial amount.

The reality is that patients like myself don’t want to throw away something that isn’t completely worn out yet. Also, if you’re going out for the day, it’s much easier to carry one insulin pen needle than three or four.

This makes it easy to lean towards reusing the needle a few times before tossing it out.

Related: How To Get Insulin Without Insurance

Is it Safe to Reuse Insulin Needles? 

Can You Reuse Insulin Needles

According to a study in The National Library of Medicine, it appears it may be safe to reuse insulin needles.

Studies by G Schueler from the Department of Endocrinology in Germany followed twenty diabetic patients over a period of approx. 4 months. His aim was to find out if multiple uses of insulin injection systems, more commonly known as ‘insulin pens’ would lead to infection. 

The encouraging results found that during a total of nearly 33,000 injections carried out, the 20 patients involved in the research suffered no signs of infection. 

His findings also uncovered that using insulin pen needles up to five times does not affect needle tip shape nor increase pain intensity.

To conclude, using a single insulin needle multiple times appears to be safe and effective. However, this does not mean that reusing insulin needles is risk-free.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Injecting Insulin

What are the Risks if I Reuse Insulin Needles?

According to experts, there are still risks attached to reusing insulin needles. These are outlined below. 

  • You may experience pain due to a distorted needle 
  • The very fine tip of the needle may break off
  • An increased risk of Lipohypertrophy or more commonly known as lumpy skin 
  • Bacterial growth 

Although we’ve seen above that reusing insulin pens is approved by certain experts, others say that over time the very fine tip of needles may become distorted with reuse. The distortion of a needle can cause pain when injecting, and it can also prevent you from getting the complete insulin dose.

And despite the studies that say it is safe to reuse needles, there is a risk of developing an infection. This is especially the case if your needle has touched an unsanitary surface.

How Many Times Can I Reuse an Insulin Needle?

We’ve seen above there’s plenty of research that suggests if you reuse insulin needles, then it is safe, but there might be a limit as to how many times you can reuse it without any ill effects. 

The NCBI says, “using insulin pen needles up to five times does not affect needle tip shape nor increase pain intensity.”

It’s also worth understanding that manufacturer’s safety checks on needles are based on a single-use only.

After a significant number of reuses (more than 4 or 5), it could also cause the needle’s extremely fine point to break off, possibly resulting in Microscopic pieces of the needle being left behind in the patient’s skin.

Closing Thoughts

It is important to mention that you should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for how to use insulin needles. If you can, avoid reusing insulin needles to completely avoid the risk of developing an infection.

If you’re struggling to afford your medication, then enroll with Prescription Hope. We work with over 1500 medications, and our team works tirelessly on your behalf to ensure you have the best chance at obtaining affordable and convenient medical supplies.