Do Insulin Vial Protectors Really Work? We Dropped Them to Find Out

Anyone who takes insulin regularly surely knows the unique, wet-smack sound of a shattering vial. At roughly $300 a pop these days, losing a vial of this life- sustaining “liquid gold” is a calamity of the worst kind.

If only you had used some sort of vial protector, then dropping it would be nothing more than a minor inconvenience, causing you to merely laugh at your clumsiness, and to bend down and pick up the precious vial you just fumble- fingered.

What about these so-called insulin vial protector products, though? Are they really any good? How much protection do they actually offer? Some have been around for years, while new kids on the block keep appearing.

Each features different solutions for protecting insulin from destructive accidents, while at the same time providing varied access to the vial for site changes or bolus doses. So how’s a person with diabetes (PWD) to choose?

To help you sort this out, DiabetesMine put five top contenders through their paces, even purposely dropping them to see how they hold up. We explored the pros and cons of these insulin vial protectors, as well as the pricing details, and feedback from existing users.

Our vial testing methodology

Since DiabetesMine doesn’t have it’s own dedicated testing lab, we set up in an airplane hangar. This may seem an odd place to test-drop vials of insulin ensconced in various protectors, but the location has two major features that made it perfect for the task.

First, the floor is rock hard. Literally. The concrete floor is covered in Rust- Oleum RockSolid — a smooth, glassy, polycuramine coating that makes it an ideal proxy for the tile and marble commonly found on bathroom floors, without the variable of grout lines or joints. In other words, it’s a ginormous piece of tile.

Second, hangars also have high ceilings, and this one is about 14 feet. How on earth could an insulin vial be accidentally dropped from 14 feet? Well, you never know, and we really wanted to discover which vial protector provided the ultimate protection.

Not being crazy, of course we didn’t use real insulin for our tests. Instead, we used empty Humalog and Novolog vials, refilled with water and pressure-equalized to simulate half-used vials. We chose partly full over full, as an insulin vial is only full once, and at the other end of the spectrum, once it’s empty, it wouldn’t matter if it broke. We felt 50 percent was representative of typical status, and would mimic the fluid dynamics of a real drop, should there be any hydraulic effects that might be involved in over-stressing the vial during impact.

For drop protocol, each protector — with insulin vial onboard — was dropped three times from each target height. The first drop was horizontal. Next, we dropped the protected vial neck-end down. Lastly, we dropped each protected vial butt-end down. Of course, some of the protectors caused the vials to tumble in different ways, so direct impact on the tile surface wasn’t guaranteed.

As to drop height, we started at 3 feet — a typical countertop height, then added three more feet for each test: 6 feet, 9 feet, and finally 12 feet. What happened? Read on.

Ultimate drop challenge

With three of these protectors passing the 12-foot test, we decided to go for the ultimate challenge and headed up to the rooftop. This time we’d be dropping onto asphalt, from approximately 24 feet up. In fairness, not what any of these protectors was designed for. Still, in the interest of science…

The results? The Securitee Blanket survived the first two drops from the roof, the horizontal and the neck-down, but imploded on the butt-end drop. The other two — the Cosita Bonita and the rubbery Vial Safe — largely passed the 24- foot challenge. We say “largely” as one of the extreme drops in the Vial Safe resulted in a badly dented metal vial top. Still, the insulin vial didn’t break, but as there was some damage. So overall, we declared the seemingly indestructible Cosita to be the winner of our Ultimate Drop Challenge.

User feedback

Across the board, users of these various vial protectors have generally good opinions. Some customer reviews included statements like these:

“After moving to a new house with tile floor in the kitchen and breaking 3 vials of insulin due to them falling off the counter, I found these on Amazon and they WORK. Between the kids and the cat, my insulin has fallen off the counter onto the tile floor many times more since I first started using these and I have never broken a vial since. These vial protectors are a must-have.”

“Insulin, as most of us that use it know, is very expensive. I saw this protective sleeve on Amazon and decided to give it a try. Now the bottle stays firmly in my hand as I have to mix it by rolling it and I am not afraid of it breaking if it falls out of my hand. It is just awesome.”

“Wife insisted on getting this and she loves it. Personally i don’t see the big deal but it does help in the event of a fall it will protect the bottle so it is an additional peace of mind to have and it is easy to insert and use. A bit pricey for a piece of rubber but what can you do?”

“Every time you buy a vial of insulin you take the risk of wasting your money by breaking it. Not only do you waste your money but then you waste your time getting the pharmacy to refill the order, but you don’t have enough refills so you call the doctors office and it’s a hoopla. For a lousy $15 you can avoid all that.”

Which protector is best?

In our DiabetesMine testing, all of the products successfully protected their contents from the typical height that vials are dropped from — and most of them protected from even greater heights than they would probably face in daily D- life.

All are reusable, although the hard-plastic models are more susceptible to damage like chips and cracks. Three of the five are compact enough to be carried in Frío wallets, although you may not need that functionality.

The T1D3DGear Vial Vessel protectors offer the best fun factor of mix-and-match bright colors or glow-in-the-dark plastic — although we think having to unscrew the lid for use each time would get tedious.

The Securitee Blanket product got demerits from the team for not offering any visibility to judge the volume remaining in the vial, or even confirming it’s the proper vial, in the case of multiple daily injection therapy where more than one type of insulin is used.

But any one of them will do the job they claim to do. And while the prices vary, compared to the cost of insulin — or the difficulty of getting replacement vials even for the well-insured — we think that even the most expensive vial protector is very cheap insurance indeed.

Bottom line

Overall, these insulin vial protectors are a good low-cost option for people with diabetes to help keep their expensive bottles of insulin from breaking. They come in many different colors and styles, and fit insulin vials in slightly different ways depending on the product. Users agree that any one of these protectors is a good investment if your life depends on insulin.

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a leading consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community that joined ishonest Media in 2015. The Diabetes Mine team is made up of informed patient advocates who are also trained journalists. We focus on providing content that informs and inspires people affected by diabetes.

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