What We’re Reading: Color-Coded Insulin Packaging

There are a lot of things to keep on top of when you have diabetes — the amount of carbohydrate in the pasta sauce you had at lunch, the total miles your walking plan calls for this week, the number of insulin units you took to cover that midday snack — which can make it difficult to keep track of things like which type of insulin you just grabbed and used. But although it’s easy to accidentally inject yourself with rapid-acting insulin instead of long-acting insulin or vice versa, dealing with the consequences is not always so simple.

Fortunately, as reported on the diabetes blog Close Concerns, insulin maker Eli Lilly and Company recently implemented a strategy to try to stop mistakes like this from happening: Eli Lilly products such as vials and insulin pens that contain Humalog or Humulin insulin will be marked with a standardized color meant to identify which type of insulin the product holds. According to Eli Lilly’s coding style, colors will indicate both insulin family and insulin style, so that Humalin R, for example, will be marked with blue for the Humulin family of insulin and yellow for Regular insulin. Humalog KwikPens will be the first product line to carry the new color-coding. (For more information on the new identification system, see Eli Lilly’s press release.)


Although members of the diabetes community have commended Eli Lilly for this action, some, such as blogger Scott Strumello, feel that insulin makers should go even further: In this blog post, he suggests that Eli Lilly also differentiate the packaging for their U-500 insulin, a type of insulin that’s five times as concentrated as standard U-100 insulin, and that standardized colors for different types of insulin be used by insulin makers across the board.

What are your thoughts on the issue? Have you ever accidentally used the wrong type of insulin? Will color-coding of insulin products help you prevent mix-ups? Let us know with a comment below.

This blog entry was written by Associate Editor Diane Fennell.

  • geminga

    My mom just had an incident with humalog. She received a box marked 25/75 which contained the fast acting not the slow acting clear vial in the box. When we brought this to the attention of the pharmacist he also noted it was out of date. My mother has macular degineration and things are often blurry to her. Her guardian angel must have been on her shoulder when she noticed the vial was not cloudy but clear. Depending on the state of her eyes she may not have always been able to differentiate. Had she taken the clear dose she likely would have not been able to call for help.
    There is an ongoing investigation in process over this. Always have your loved ones check to make sure it is cloudy BEFORE using.