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Non-Insulin Pens for People with Diabetes

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about pen devices?

A non-insulin pen is a device used to inject diabetes medicines. The pen contains a cartridge of diabetes medicine. The pen may be used while you are taking other diabetes medicine. Some pens are used one time and discarded. Others have several doses of medicine. These pens are used every day, sometimes more than one time each day. Your healthcare provider or pharmacist will give you information on your specific type of pen.

How do I get the medicine ready to use?

  • Check the label. Check that you have the correct medicine. Also check the expiration date. Use a new pen if the expiration date has passed.
  • Check the color of the medicine. The medicine in the cartridge should be free of clumps. You may need to mix the medicine before you use it. Your healthcare provider or pharmacist will show you how to mix it.

How do I get the pen ready to use?

  • Remove a new pen from the refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes before you use it. Medicine should be injected at room temperature.
  • Wash your hands. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. This will help decrease your risk for an infection.
  • Select the correct dose on the pen as directed. You may need to pull the injection button out before you turn it. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you need to do this. Turn the dial to the dose prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you cannot turn the dial, there may not be enough medicine left in the cartridge. Use a new pen if there is not enough medicine left.
  • Remove the cap from the needle. Some pens have the needle attached. These needles go back into the pen after use. Some needles need to be attached to the pens.

Where do I inject medicine?

  • You can inject medicine into your abdomen, upper arm, and the front or side of the thigh.
    Injection Sites
  • Do not inject medicine into areas where you have a wound or bruising. Medicine injected into wounds or bruises may not get into your body correctly.
  • Inject your medicine at least 2 inches away from where you inject insulin.
  • Use a different area within the site each time you inject medicine. For example, inject medicine into different areas in your abdomen. Medicine injected into the same area can cause lumps, swelling, or thickened skin.

How do I inject medicine with a pen?

  • Clean the skin where you will inject the medicine. You can use an alcohol pad or a cotton swab dipped in alcohol. Let the area dry before you inject. This will decrease pain.
  • Grab a fold of your skin. Gently pinch the skin and fat between your thumb and first finger.
  • Insert the needle straight into your skin. Do not hold the syringe at an angle. Make sure the needle is all the way into the skin. Let go of the pinched tissue.
  • Push the injection button to inject the medicine. Continue to press the injection button. Keep the needle in your skin for 10 seconds.
  • Pull out the needle. Press on your injection site for 5 to 10 seconds. Do not rub. This will keep medicine from leaking out.
  • Recap the needle and remove it from the pen, if needed. Twist the capped needle counter clockwise.
  • Get rid of used needles and empty pens. It is important to dispose of your needles and empty pens correctly. Do not throw needles into the trash. You may receive a hard plastic container made especially for used pens and needles. You can also use a soda bottle or other plastic bottle with a screw lid. Make sure that both the pen and needle fit into the container easily and cannot break through the sides. Ask your healthcare provider or a pharmacist what your state or local requirements are for getting rid of used pens and needles.

How do I store the pen?

Do not store your pen with a needle attached. Follow the storage directions on the label or package insert that came with the pen. Unopened pens can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Most pens can be opened and kept at room temperature. Store your pen in a cool, dry place. Do not keep your pen in direct sunlight or in your car. Dispose of pens that have been frozen or exposed to temperatures above 85°F (30°C). If you travel, keep the pen in a cool pack.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns about how to use the pen.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.