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Insulin Pumps, Pens, and Syringes

Person slicing apples wearing an Omnipod insulin pump patch

Discover different options for insulin delivery, from insulin pumps to smart injection pens to syringes and vials. 

All people with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes use insulin to manage their blood sugar levels. There are many different ways to deliver insulin – manual injections, smart injection pens, and even insulin pumps. Everyone has unique preferences, and it may require some trial and error to find the method that works best for you. 

Insulin pumps

Insulin pumps are devices that deliver insulin without the need for manual injections. They are able to administer rapid-acting insulin in both basal (slow, baseline) and bolus (mealtime) capacities, once users program their dose into the device. Many pumps come with built-in bolus-calculators, which can reduce the hassle of manual insulin dose calculations. 

Some Medtronic and Tandem systems combine data from a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) with an insulin pump to automatically adjust insulin based on your blood glucose levels in what is known as automated insulin delivery.  

What supplies do I need?

In addition to the insulin itself, most insulin pumps require three main components, all worn close to the body:

  • Pump. 
  • Cannula, which is inserted subcutaneously (beneath the skin) and delivers insulin. This is also called an infusion set. 
  • Tubing, which moves insulin from the pump to the cannula. 


  • The Insulet OmniPod consists of a patch worn on the skin that administers insulin, plus a device that the user controls to manage insulin dosing.
  • Roche’s Accu-Chek patch pump is used with a disposable insulin reservoir and a handheld controller. This device is currently only available in Europe and Australia
  • The Valeritas V-Go is a 24-hour, disposable patch pump for people with type 2 diabetes. The spring-driven patch pump is worn on the skin with a preset basal rate and can bolus at any given time.

Choosing an insulin pump:

With multiple pumps available, it raises the question: "What pump to choose?" There is NO perfect pump, since all devices have benefits and drawbacks depending on your preferences. The table below summarizes our team's experiences with a number of pumps common in the US.


Key Features

Key Draw-backs 

Most Ideal For...

Insulet OmniPod

Tubeless, discreet, and relatively painless insertion

Easy setup and pod changes


Wireless controller 

Lower upfront cost

Must be thrown away every three days, or more frequently for people with high daily doses

No integrated meter with OmniPod Dash

Currently no AID availability

Those who are new to pumps, very young people, highly active people

Those who prefer a discrete pump without tubing


Medtronic MiniMed 630G System

Makes use of SmartGuard technology to stop insulin delivery for two hours if glucose levels reach a low 


Sensor must be calibrated 3-4 times per day

Only approved for children 14 and older

People who struggle with nighttime hypoglycemia 


Medtronic MiniMed 670G System

Hybrid closed-loop pump


Auto Mode automatically adjusts basal-insulin based CGM readings

Makes use of SmartGuard technology to stop insulin delivery for two hours if glucose levels reach a low

Sensor must be calibrated 3-4 times per day

Frequent system alerts are given while in Auto Mode

The pump requires users to confirm mealtime and correct bolus recommendations

People who struggle with nighttime hypoglycemia 


People who need help stabilizing glucose levels


Tandem t:slimX2

Compatible with Basal-IQ and Control-IQ AID systems

Utilizes a touchscreen, highly-intuitive interface

Has a rechargeable battery

Highly customizable “personal profiles” for insulin delivery

Infusion set changes take a long time

Control-IQ AID system shows excellent nighttime glucose numbers

Those who desire a pump that doesn’t look like a medical device

Those who are new to pumps

Medtronic MiniMed 770G System

Auto-mode can automatically adjust basal insulin rates every five minutes based on CGM readings

Bluetooth-enabled to connect to smartphone and update software when available

Share feature allows direct sharing of data from smartphone to healthcare providers and other caregivers

FDA approved for children ages 2 and up

Requires finger stick calibration twice each day to inform insulin dosing decisions

System alerts in auto-mode can be frequent and bothersome

Basic programming and initial setup can be complicated

Young children ages 2 and up

Sharing data remotely between user, caregiver, and healthcare providers

Injection pens

Injection pens are used for injecting insulin in a way that is easier than using a syringe. In addition to insulin, other diabetes medications like glucagon injections (type 1 and type 2 diabetes) and GLP-1 receptor agonists (type 2 diabetes) come in injection pens. 

Some examples of insulins that come in injection pens include: 

  • Lyumjev and Humalog Kwikpens, rapid-acting insulins made by Lilly
  • Tresiba FlexTouch pen, a basal insulin made by Novo Nordisk
  • Lantus SoloStar, a basal insulin made by Sanofi 

Smart pens are injection pens that track information about insulin doses, timing, and temperature. Many are Bluetooth-enabled and connect to apps, where users can view insulin doses and set alarms and reminders. Another advantage of injection pens and smart pens is that you don’t need to wear anything on your body. 

Choosing a smart pen:

Injection pen

Key Features

Key Draw-backs 

Medtronic InPen 

Reusable, Bluetooth-enabled smart pen


Tracks insulin doses and timing, monitors insulin temperature 


Bolus calculator


Integration with various CGMs


Compatible with Novolog, Humalog, and Fiasp insulin cartridges

Lasts one year

Bigfoot Unity Diabetes Management System

Bluetooth-enabled reusable smart cap for disposable and durable insulin pens


Tracks insulin dose timing and temperature


Options for both basal and bolus insulin pens


Compatible with 17 different pre-filled insulin pens

Caps have average lifespan of two years


Rechargeable battery - not replaceable 

NovoPen 6 and NovoPen Echo Plus

Reusable pen with last insulin dose and time of injection on the end of the pen


Compatible with both basal and bolus insulin cartridges


Memory limited to 800 doses


Battery lasts five years

Mallya smart pen cap

Reusable smart cap compatible with all major pens


Sends dose, time, and date to app via Bluetooth


App offers reminders and alerts

Lasts two years

Tempo Personalized Diabetes Management Platform

Tempo Smart Button attaches to the top of the Tempo Pen to allow data transfer via Bluetooth


Compatible app titrates basal, bolus, and basal+bolus insulin


Compatible with Tempo Pens for 100 units/mL Basaglar, Humalog, and Lyumjev


Compatible with Dexcom CGMs or BGM

Intended go be used as part of the entire system, consisting of Tempo Smart Button, Tempo Pen, and compatible app 


Tempo Smart Button has eight month battery life; over the counter refill kit available

Syringes and vials

This is the most affordable insulin delivery option, but it requires more effort and dexterity to properly dose and deliver insulin. Using syringes and vials also requires bringing a lot of supplies wherever you go. Once insulin vials are open, they can be stored at room temperature for up to 28 days. 

One advantage of giving injections via syringe and vial is that you don’t need to wear anything on your body, so it’s less conspicuous. However, you must manually track your insulin doses and set your own reminders for when to give your injections. 

What supplies do I need?

In addition to the insulin vial, you’ll need needles, syringes, alcohol wipes, and a container for used needles and syringes.