UPDATED: 1:24 p.m. PST February
For many people who have
diabetes, insulin can literally mean the
difference between life and death. But
what if that lifesaving insulin was
simply no good?
Call 23 Consumer Reporter Heidi
Carter has found that a new type of
insulin called lantus is causing some
confusion. Lantus is a 24-hour insulin
that's used along with other fast-acting
insulin to help a diabetic maintain a
more consistent blood sugar level.
But one local woman was alarmed
when she learned something that neither
her doctor nor her pharmacist warned her
about: once the vial is opened, it's
only good for 28 days.
Valerie Sumlin has been
diabetic since she was four years old
and she does a good job managing her
blood sugar levels.
"You have to know how your
insulin works to adjust your lifestyle
around it," Sumlin said.
She was happy with the lantus
insulin, but about a month into her
prescription, the insulin just stopped
Sumlin asked her Walgreen's
pharmacist what could be wrong, but he
said he didn't know. When Sumlin asked
for large-print information on lantus,
he said he couldn't help her.
Sumlin said, "I need
something that I can read to get a
handle on this insulin, because for four
weeks it's working fine - then all of a
sudden - BOOM!"
Frustrated, she got the phone
number for the manufacturer, Aventis,
and spoke to a company representative.
"And he said, 'Ma'am, I'm
sorry to tell you, but you took Insulin
that was no good for over eight days.' I
said 'No good? The expiration date said
7-2004. It's highlighted. I'm looking at
it,'" said Sumlin.
Walgreen's responded to Call
23's questions about the confusion over
the expiration dates by saying that they
were "looking into the matter. The
written patient information provided for
this product is complete and accurate.
As with any drug, we encourage patients
to become familiar with their
prescription medicine and to ask
questions, if necessary, at the
Sumlin did ask questions at the
pharmacy. She just didn't get any
"And they are so big and
they show nationwide they don't care
about one person like me, actually maybe
going into a coma or dying," said
But Call 23 discovered that the
information being provided by the drug
company to doctors and pharmacists about
the 28-day expiration of lantus is
confusing at best. We have brought that
issue to both Aventis and the Food and
Drug Administration in hopes that other
patients like Sumlin don't put their
lives at risk.
"Do you realize what eight
days can do to a type-1 diabetic like me
-- who's right on the verge of dialysis
-- who's had two heart attacks -- eight
days of high blood sugars?"
As for Sumlin's request for
large-print literature on lantus,
Walgreen's corporate office told Call 23
that they don't have the capability of
providing it. But Aventis, the
manufacturer, has promised to mail the
information to Sumlin.
Aventis said they don't provide
the 28-day expiration information in
their doctor's insert because they say
it's common knowledge that insulin
expires in one month, once the vial has
But in Sumlin's case, no one
but Aventis was aware of that common
So, lantus users, be warned
that 28 days after you begin to use your
lantus insulin, it's no longer
To see the patient information
on-line, click on lantus.