Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
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Year : 2005  |  Volume : 51  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 152-153  

Insulin prescription errors

John Mathew, VK Senthil 
 Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu - 632004, India

Correspondence Address:
John Mathew
Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu - 632004

How to cite this article:
Mathew J, Senthil V K. Insulin prescription errors.J Postgrad Med 2005;51:152-153

How to cite this URL:
Mathew J, Senthil V K. Insulin prescription errors. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2005 [cited 2023 Jan 27 ];51:152-153
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The articles on drug prescription practices in India and the accompanying editorial in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine were timely. [1],[2],[3] We would like to highlight the medication errors that occur due to faulty practices encountered while prescribing insulin.

In India, there are at least 7 different companies supplying insulin in various forms. Availability of multiple species (bovine, porcine and human), different formulations (regular, NPH, lente, 30/70 and 50/50 combinations) and a variety of insulin analogs and their combinations add to the complexities in prescribing insulin. Errors involved in timing of insulin doses and illegible handwriting (confusing IU or U for 0 etc.) add to the prevalent confusion. For the sake of convenience, several doctors relate to regular insulin as "clear insulin". But in the current scenario, "clear" insulin could mean regular insulin, Lispro, Aspart or Glargine. Further, patients on Lispro (or Aspart) with Glargine combinations will be using two types of clear insulins. Mistaken identity resulting in hypoglycaemia has been reported.[4]

In addition, some physicians prescribe "Insulin L" which could mean either Lente (an intermediate acting insulin) or Lantus (Glargine, a long acting analogue).[5] Another source of confusion is the use of combination-premixed insulin. Patients who remember their insulin as 30/70 may be using either a premixed combination of human insulin (e.g. Huminsulin 30/70) or a premixed analog (e.g. Novomix 30/70). Not mentioning the species of insulin is another error that physicians often make.

Considering the various issues involved, it would be advisable for the physicians to write the prescription in full form mentioning the trade name, generic name as well as the species and also expect the manufacturers to agree upon a common formula to designate insulin and analogs depending upon the species, type of insulin and combinations involved. It is heartening to note that steps are being taken in this direction by adding a suffix like R or N to indicate the type of insulin.


1Patel V, Vaidya R, Naik D, Borker P. Irrational drug use in India: A prescription survey from Goa. J Postgrad Med 2005;51:9-12
2Rataboli PV, Garg A. Confusing brand names: Nightmare of medical profession. J Postgrad Med 2005;51:13-6.
3Mehta S, Gogtay NJ. From the pen to the patient: Minimising medication errors. J Postgrad Med 2005;51:3-4
4Adlersberg MA, Fernando S, Spollett GR, Inzucchi SE. Glargine and lispro: two cases of mistaken identity. Diabetes Care 2002;25:404-5.
5White JR. How can pharmacists help avoid medication errors in the use of insulin Glargine (Lantus)? [Monograph on the Internet] US Pharmacist (cited 2005 May 31) Available from show=article&page=8_1079.htm

Friday, January 27, 2023
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