Open Insulin Stays Usable for Weeks in Warm Conditions, Researchers Find
Open insulin can be stored in warm temperatures for weeks and remain usable, according to new research published in PLOS One.
“The current pharmaceutical protocol requires insulin vials to be stored between 2 degree Celsius and 8 degree Celsius until opened, after which most human insulin can be stored at 25 degree C for four weeks. This is obviously an issue in refugee camps in temperatures hotter than this, where families don’t have refrigerators,” Philippa Boulle, study co-author and a non-communicable diseases advisor at Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.
Insulin is a hormone produced in the body to control blood sugar. For individuals with diabetes, regular insulin injections are critical for their survival. If they do not have access to refrigeration, diabetic individuals currently must travel to hospitals several times a day — which is both inconvenient and expensive.
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To test insulin’s efficacy in warm climates, researchers measured temperature fluctuations in a Northern Kenya refugee camp — which can range between 25 degree Celsius (night) and 37 degree Celsius (day) — while assessing different commercial formulations of insulin for heat stability. They discovered that the warm insulin showed perfect conformity to pharmaceutical guidelines throughout the four-week treatment period and performed the same functions in human cells that insulin stored at cold temperatures did.
The inaccessibility of insulin is a major problem in India — home to the second-largest number (almost 80 million) of diabetics in the world. High ambient temperatures are one of the key reasons why insulin isn’t as available to patients in countries with tropical climates, like India, say researchers.
Researchers hope these findings will allow people to lead normal daily lives, and that the World Health Organization will endorse their findings. Boulle adds, “These results can serve as a basis for changing diabetes management practices in low-resource settings, since patients won’t have to go to hospital every day for their insulin injections. Of course, this will have to go hand-in-hand with educating patients, as well as providing support and follow-ups. so that people with diabetes can measure their blood sugar levels and inject the right amount of insulin. This will allow people to manage their illness correctly, and more independently.”