CDC and FDA: Don’t Share!

It would seem to go without saying that devices used to puncture the skin — such as lancets and insulin pen needles — should never be shared by more than one person. In fact, these components are not officially considered reusable even by the same person, although as we noted in a previous post here at Diabetes Flashpoints, many people with diabetes reuse them anyway. But what about the reusable devices that these disposable components are paired with: lancing (fingerstick) devices and insulin pens? Can more than one person safely share them?


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently addressed this question as it relates to devices in health-care settings. In coordinated statements, the agencies announced their position that lancing devices should never be used to obtain a blood sample from more than one person. The FDA noted that there has been a constant increase in reported instances of bloodborne infections being transmitted in health-care settings over the last 10–15 years, particularly involving the hepatitis B virus. The agency blames, in part, unclear labeling of multiple-use lancing devices for this trend. It has not always been made clear, says the agency, whether a device was approved for use on multiple patients or simply for multiple uses on the same patient. Furthermore, cleaning and disinfection instructions for these devices may have been inadequate. Therefore, even for devices the FDA previously cleared for use on multiple patients, the agencies say this practice should be discontinued. They even recommend using devices that physically cannot be reused, such as those on which the lancing blade permanently retracts after one use.

But the agencies do not stop at lancing devices. They also recommend that, whenever possible, blood-reading devices (such as blood glucose meters and anticoagulation meters) should also be limited to one person. It appears that this recommendation is also based on infection fears, even though when they are properly used, nothing that enters these devices makes close contact again with the patient. But there is, of course, always potential for error in use, and the agencies apparently feel that limiting these devices to one person will reduce the infection risk posed by error enough to outweigh the inconvenience of this limitation.

What do you think — would you have been comfortable having a blood sample taken with a lancing device approved for, and used by, more than one patient? Have you ever shared a lancing device or an insulin pen with another person? In what, if any, situations would you be comfortable doing this? Is sharing a blood glucose meter more acceptable? Leave a comment below!

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  • Marc

    I’m not comfortable with sharing however, I do wish there was some way to recycle old meters.

  • John

    I would not think of sharing lancing devices or insulin pens! My girlfriend and I do share a meter for over a year now and we haven’t even got close to touching the others blood or strip! Seems to be a little over cautious to not share a meter!!

  • Diana Starr Daniels

    Actually, family members who do not have Diabetes have tried my meter being curious about their own glucose level. It occurred to me later that my doctor checks the readings and this would throw it off making my glucose level seem lower than it actually is. On the other hand, I have never shared a lancing device.

  • Tia

    Some of my family members are broke and don’t have the money for strips. I gladly share my meter with them! My doctor flips out. I could care less. I’m in charge, not the doctor!! The most important thing to me is for my family to be able to test. You do what you have to do to make it through. I read so much information and think to myself, I wonder what color the sun is in their world. The land of everyone can afford everything. They’re totally out of touch with reality. Sadness.

  • Paul Wirth

    Sharing of needles and lancets is obviously stupid.However, one can take precautions to:(A) avoid cross contamination and (B) Present your doctor with reliable data.Your Log Book will not reflect the contaminated data ; some meters permit the strip test to not record; in any case, your doctor will be most intereste in your HgA1c.

  • Boyd Riley

    I do not feel comfortable with sharing my needles or lancets with anyone else, not would I want to use someone’s needles. With every precaution that could be taken, diseases can still be spread by sharing these things.

  • barry hirr

    what is it with some diabetics that they feel the need to test everyone else in the room using their own lancet ??? someone did that with me – should i have aids and hiv test ?

  • April Clem

    Ive shared a insulin pen with a buddy who had forgotten his numerous times but never read or thought by changing the needles or lancets would be able to spreas hepatitis omg going to dr tomorrow luckily already for med discussion now i will request a hep test holy crap everyone around me has it! Ive been tested and don’t myself but nrver did drugs like the others I know who have it. Holy crap my best friend, two different male friends and my mom and ive shared both pens with clean needles of course and lancet sticker with new needles they always remove there own contaminate stuff and properly disposed the items but holy crap I used pens with new needles and lancet new needles with the same device as there all diabetics also! Testing my blood will definitely now be at top of my list and no more sharing. I do regularly wipe them doen with alcohol pads regularly and do my electronics to to keep germ free better. Now I feel stupid never thought sharing would put me at a risk.

  • Clive White

    I agree that sharing a lance is asking for trouble. That said, a lot of lances have multiple “needles”, if you select a new needle for each person I can’t see that being a health issue. Also, regarding sharing meters, a new strip is used for each person, I can’t imagine how blood-borne diseases could migrate through a new strip (unless a used one was accidentally tried again by another person maybe?). Sharing a meter could only share surface-borne bugs, but surely the danger is no worse than sharing any other surface (such as a table top or a chair). At the end of the day understanding bugs is pretty simple – they can’t move themselves, they need to hang onto something or float in something in order to migrate. We just need to think about whether what we are doing is giving them that opportunity.