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Accidents Will Happen But Damage Can Be Minimized

Apr 13, 2021

Avoiding a broken insulin vial saves the hassle getting of an insurance company to pay for an extra vial, and finding a replacement when travelling.

This is a repeat Disaster Averted initially published in 2013, but it is still valid. Just think about if it had been one of the newer insulins. Doubtful it would have been that easy to replace. No, it would not have been as easy. 


 Over the years, I have had many patients come into the pharmacy requesting a replacement bottle of insulin because they’ve accidentally dropped a bottle. Recently, a patient shared this experience: 

“My vial of Regular insulin dropped to the floor and shattered. I was trying to draw up my pre-meal dose in the ladies room of an upscale restaurant. My husband Herb waited patiently at our table as our Cajun catfish Courtbouillon and shrimp creole were heating up. I could almost smell the thick, rich  fish stew brimming with flavor. But I needed my pre-meal insulin dose.”  

“On the way back to the table, I asked the head waiter if he knew of a pharmacy nearby where I could replace my insulin. Fortunately, one at a mall within a mile of this restaurant and regular insulin does not require a prescription. We asked the head waiter to hold our order and promised to return.   

We purchased the vial, along with an extra, and took a cab back. After the pre-meal bolus dose of my new Regular insulin, my husband and I enjoyed our dining experience. Never let it be said that our lives are less than spicy — whether or not we’re in New Orleans! 

Returning home, I vowed I’d not let this happen again. Now, for each new vial of insulin I am about to open, I wrap it entirely with transparent scotch tape.” 

Lessons Learned:  

securiteeBetween the hassle of getting an insurance company to pay for an extra vial of insulin and finding a way to get analog insulin when they are out of town, it makes sense to encourage your patients to protect their insulin vial from breakage. The patient above had one solution (and if you know your patients are using this particular solution, be sure to emphasize that they do not obscure the bottle label!). Still, there are also other solutions available such as Vial Protection by Security Blanket. Give your patients a written prescription for analog insulins or, if possible, change the patient to an insulin pen. 

Merilee Kaufman


If you have a “Diabetes Disaster Averted” story like this incident with a broken insulin vial, please let us know! If we feature your Disaster Averted in our Diabetes Clinical Mastery Series e-newsletter, you will receive a $25 gift card. Please click here to submit a short summary of the incident, what you feel you learned from handling the incident, and your name and title. If you prefer to remain anonymous, please let us know, but still give us your name and address (so we can send you the gift card).






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Originally published March, 2013; updated July, 2018 and April, 2021.