Pen Devices for Insulin Self-Administration Compared With Needle and Vial: Systematic Review of the Literature and Meta-Analysis

J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2016 Jun 28;10(4):959-66. doi: 10.1177/1932296816633721. Print 2016 Jul.


Objectives: Pen devices offer advantages compared with vial and syringe (VaS). The purpose of this article was to evaluate efficacy of pen devices compared to VaS.

Methods: A systematic review of literature was performed in 8 different databases. References were independently screened and selected. Primary observational or experimental studies comparing pen devices with VaS for insulin administrations were included. Studies on specific populations were excluded. Risk of bias was evaluated using appropriate tools. Data on glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c), hypoglycemia, adherence, persistence, patient preference, and quality of life (QOL) were collected. Meta-analysis was performed when appropriate. Heterogeneity and risk of publication bias were evaluated. Otherwise, descriptive analyses of the available data was done.

Results: In all, 10 348 articles were screened. A total of 17 studies were finally selected: 7 experimental and 10 analytical. The populations of the included articles were mainly composed of adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Important risk of bias was found in all of the articles, particularly experimental studies. Meta-analyses were performed for HbA1c, hypoglycemia, adherence and persistence. Pen device showed better results in mean HbA1c change, patients with hypoglycemia, adherence and persistence compared to VaS. No difference was observed in number of patients achieving <7% HbA1c. Preference studies showed a tendency favoring pen devices, however nonvalidated tools were used. One QoL study showed improvements in some subscales of SF-36.

Conclusions: There is evidence that pen devices offer benefits in clinical and, less clearly, patient-reported outcomes compared to VaS for insulin administration. However, these results should be taken with caution.

Keywords: diabetes mellitus; equipment and supplies; glycosylated; hemoglobin A; insulin; medication adherence; patient preference.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Disposable Equipment
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Needles
  • Self Administration / instrumentation*
  • Syringes


  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin