If you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor might prescribe insulin therapy to help manage your blood sugar levels. Insulin is a hormone that’s produced in the pancreas. It regulates blood sugar levels and allows your body to convert sugar into energy.
People with type 2 diabetes are still able to make insulin, but the body doesn’t use it effectively. That’s why some people with type 2 diabetes need to take prescription insulin.
Types of insulin
There are multiple types of insulin available. The four main types are:
- rapid-acting insulin
- regular-acting or short-acting insulin
- intermediate-acting insulin
- long-acting insulin
Insulin can’t be taken in pill-form because your digestive system would break it down in the same way that you digest food. That means the insulin wouldn’t make it to your bloodstream where it’s needed.
Depending on your health history, your doctor might prescribe one type of insulin or multiple types of insulin. Some people also try an approach called “combination therapy.” This involves taking both insulin and non-insulin oral medications.
This chart describes the different types of insulin and how they can affect you. Within each category, there are different formulations that may vary the onset, peak, or duration.
Brands of insulin
Although there are four main types of insulin, there are far more prescription brands that offer the medication in its main forms. These brands may vary by the type of insulin, dosing, and how it is delivered, among other factors. Here’s an overview of the different brands and insulin products available:
Rapid-acting insulin products include:
- insulin aspart (NovoLog)
- insulin glulisine (Apidra)
- insulin lispro (Humalog)
Regular- or short-acting products generally use insulin regular, including:
- Humulin R
- Humulin R U-500
- Humulin R U-500 KwikPen
- Iletin Regular Pork
- Iletin II Regular
- Novolin R
- Novolin R Innolet
- Novolin R PenFill
- ReliOn/Humulin R
- ReliOn/Novolin R
- Velosulin BR
Intermediate-acting products generally use insulin isophane, including:
- Humulin N
- Humulin N KwikPen
- Humulin N Pen
- Iletin NPH
- Iletin II NPH Pork
- Insulin Purified NPH Pork
- Novolin N
- Novolin N Innolet
- Novolin N PenFill
- ReliOn/Novolin N
Long-acting insulin products include:
- insulin detemir (Levemir, Levemir FlexPen, Levemir FlexTouch, Levemir InnoLet, Levemir PenFill)
- insulin degludec (Tresiba FlexTouch)
- insulin glargine (Basaglar KwikPen, Lantus, Lantus OptiClik Cartridge, Lantus Solostar Pen, Toujeo Max Solostar, Toujeo SoloStar)
Some manufacturers also sell pre-prepared mixtures of regular- or short-acting and intermediate-acting insulin, combined in a single bottle or insulin pen. These premixed products include:
- blends of insulin isophane and insulin regular (Humalin 50/50, Humulin 70/30, Humulin 70/30 KwikPen, Novolin 70/30, ReliON/Novolin 70/30)
- blends of insulin lispro and insulin lispro protamine (Humalog Mix 75/25, Humalog Mix 75/25 KwikPen)
What type of insulin is right for you?
If you need to take insulin, you may wonder which option will work best. Your doctor will consider different factors in recommending a type of insulin for you. For example, your doctor may consider:
- your blood glucose levels
- how long you’ve lived with type 2 diabetes
- any current medications you take
- your lifestyle and overall health
- your insurance coverage
Over time, your insulin needs may change and your doctor may suggest trying something new. It’s normal for your treatment plan to shift over time. If you have questions about why your doctor recommends a certain type of insulin, talk to them. Your doctor can explain the pros and cons of different insulin options, and why one may be a better fit for you.