Your Insulin Pen is NOT Empty

A few weeks ago, I discovered that I had been throwing away insulin. If you know me, that’s not something I would ever knowingly do. That’s not something anyone would do, especially with the high cost of insulin. But here’s what happened:

My Tresiba insulin pen said it had 0 units left in it; however, I decided to check if there was anything still left that I couldn’t see. At a certain point, the “piston” of the pen gets to its furthest point and cannot inject insulin anymore. It looks like this:

I extracted about 14 units out of this “empty” Tresiba pen.

It was at this point that I pulled the insulin out of the pen with a syringe. 

*Here’s how I did it:

I inserted the syringe into the pen tip, careful not to hit any pieces of the inside of the pen as it is quite close to the end, pulled the insulin out (I didn’t inject air), and that’s it. It’s important to use the same volume syringe as the insulin pen (ex: U-100). 

It was really easy. And guess what? I extracted about 14 units of insulin! That’s way too much insulin to be throwing away each time.

What is your experience with extracting insulin from a pen?

*Please do this at your own discretion. I am not a medical professional and my writings do not constitute facts or advice.



  1. Ive been pulling the last 10 units of pens for as long as there’s been pens. I stick with pens because I’ve had syringes stolen from me before. Junkies don’t want pen needles. I buy a few bags of syringes to draw out the “endings” and they last a while as you can use a syringe to pull out endings many times. I then put the endings in an empty vial of the same type of insulin (just in case it’s not totally empty). I then use the vial as “backup” if I forget to refill of the pharmacy is closed.


  2. When I discovered this, I stopped using the pen needles and started using syringes to draw the insulin out of the pen so that I get all of the insulin that I am paying for. I would go back to the vials, but the company doesn’t even provide basaglar in vials. As far as I am concerned the companies are further gouging the public by pushing these insulin pens.


  3. I just tried this with my Lantus and Apidra pens. And guess what? Got between 10 and 14 units. Where my fast-acting is concerned, that’s enough for 1 more daily meal and 1 more snack. What a waste! 😦 Thanks for the tip.


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