Thinking About Switching To A NovoPen Junior Diabetes Pen?

When your child is diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes your world is turned upside down overnight.  Initially, you go through a crash course on carb counting, glucose monitoring, and insulin injections.  At first, you will probably be taught how to give insulin injections with a syringe and 1,000-unit vial of insulin -- probably NovoLog or Humalog.  After a few months of living with diabetes you might be introduced to a diabetes pen, in particular the NovoPen Junior and Solostar Lantus pen.  But should you use it or should you keep giving insulin injections with a syringe? 

That was the question my wife and I faced when we were presented with the NovoPen Junior.  Our son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was 2 years old and for a year and a half we used syringes.  We then decided to try the NovoPen Junior after hearing some of the positive aspects of using a diabetes pen.  We have had some success, but there are some drawbacks. 

What is the NovoPen Junior?

The NovoPen Junior is about six inches long and uses a dial at the bottom to measure the insulin to be injected.  Instead of using insulin vials, you purchase 300-unit insulin cartridges, which come in packs of 5.  The insulin cartridges are inserted into the pen, a needle -- called a pen needle -- is attached, and the insulin is dialed up.  After that, the pen needle is inserted into the skin, and a button on the pen is pushed which sends the insulin into the body.

Novopen Junior - Children With Diabetes and A Diabetes Pen

After the insulin is administered, the pen needle is removed from the pen and disposed in a manner similar to the way you would dispose of a syringe.  The cap is placed on the pen and is stored away until its next use.

Advantages of the NovoPen Junior

  • The NovoPen Junior requires less storage space.  Since you do not need syringes, you do not have to use up space in your diabetes kit to keep syringes handy.  You still need to store pen needles, but they do not take up as much space.
  • You can get more accurate insulin measurements with the NovoPen Junior.  When you measure insulin in a syringe you take your best shot at drawing the correct amount of insulin that is needed, but it can still be worrisome to wonder if you are on the mark or just off of it.  The unit dial on the diabetes pen is calibrated with the cartridge and pen to give the exact amount of insulin that your child needs.  However, there are some drawbacks to this as mentioned below. 
  • The small pen needles seem to hurt less.  It's easy for me to say since I'm not the one getting injected.  However, my son seems to have less trouble with the pen needle than a syringe.  The pen needles are shorter than the needle on a syringe and are just as thin. 
  • For some children with diabetes, you can save money.  This depends on the insulin needs of your child.  But in our case, we get 2.5 times the NovoLog for the same copay.  With vials, my son was getting two 1,000-unit vials per prescription.  But being so young and small, he only used about 300 units per month.  That meant we wasted 700 units per month before we had to switch to the next vial.  The NovoPen insulin cartridges come in packs of five 300 unit cartridges.  Since my son uses about 300 units of insulin per month, we use it all and it lasts us five months before we have to get a refill.  Again, this all depends on the insulin needs of your child, but for young children, the NovoPen Junior can be a money saver.

Disadvantages of the NovoPen Junior

  • The NovoPen Junior will still leak insulin after injection.  Contrary to a syringe, which "shoots" out insulin, the NovoPen Junior administers insulin by a drip.  What this means is that insulin might still be leaking out after you remove the pen needle.  We leave the pen needle in for a count of 10, and some insulin still drips out when the needle is removed.  We have tried different pens, but no luck.  We have also tried to put a needle on the pen after a new cartridge is inserted to try to release the pressure in the cartridge.  This helped a little, but did not solve the problem.  What this has done is made us less confident that our son is getting the insulin he needs.  And at his age and small doses, even the smallest variance in insulin can throw his glucose levels off.
  • The cartridges are brittle.  This should only be a problem if you are clumsy like me.  I made the mistake of once dropping a cartridge.  It cracked and I wasted a month's worth of insulin.  Not a fun experience.
  • The NovoPen Junior is big and bulky.  Two problems can arise from the size of the NovoPen Junior.  The first is that is can be difficult to get situated when administering insulin, especially to wiggly little ones.  The second is that it is harder to be inconspicuous in public.  This isn't much of a problem for us as we do not really care who sees us give insulin to our son, but if this causes you consternation, you might not like the size of this diabetes pen.

Other Things to Be Aware of with the NovoPen Junior

Living with Type 1 Diabetes - Tips for ParentsIf you are interested in the NovoPen Junior you can probably get one from your doctor for free, but you still have to purchase pen needles. 

Something else you can do is use the diabetes pen and the insulin cartridges -- to save money -- but still draw out insulin with a syringe.  This can give you a better peace of mind that your child is getting the required insulin.  Just note that the syringe messes with the calibration of the cartridge and you will no longer be able to use pen needles with that particular cartridge. 

If you are interested in the NovoPen Junior it can be worthwhile to give it a try, and if you turn out to not be a fan you can always go back to syringes or possibly try out an insulin pump.

See Also

Tips for Parents of Newly Diagnosed Children with Diabetes

How We Found Out Our Son Has Type 1 Diabetes

Successfully Manage Your Diabetes Fundraising Walk Team