Insulin: Compare common options for insulin therapy

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Insulin therapy is a critical part of treatment for people with type 1 diabetes and also for many with type 2 diabetes. The goal of insulin therapy is to keep your blood sugar levels within a target range.

Insulin is usually injected in the fat under your skin using a syringe, insulin pen or insulin pump tubing. Which insulin is best for you depends on a number of factors. These factors include the type of diabetes you have, how much your blood sugar changes throughout the day and your lifestyle.

Many types of insulin are available and they vary by:

  • How long they take to begin working (onset)
  • When they reach their maximum effect (peak)
  • How long they last

Your doctor may prescribe a mixture of insulin types to use throughout the day and night. Sometimes, premixed insulin may be an option. Premixed insulin combines specific proportions of intermediate-acting and short- or rapid-acting insulin in one bottle or insulin pen.

This chart shows how individual insulins compare:

Insulin type and name Onset (approximate) Peak (approximate) How long it lasts (approx.)

Rapid-acting (injected)

Insulin aspart (NovoLog, Fiasp)

Insulin glulisine (Apidra)

Insulin lispro (Humalog, Admelog)

3-15 minutes 45-75 minutes 2-4 hours

Rapid-acting (inhaled)

Insulin human (Afrezza inhalation powder)

12 minutes 35-45 minutes 1.5-4.5 hours

Short-acting

Insulin regular (Humulin R, Novolin R)

30 minutes 2-4 hours 5-8 hours

Intermediate-acting

Insulin NPH (Humulin N, Novolin N, Novolin ReliOn Insulin N)

1-2 hours 4-12 hours 8-24 hours

Long-acting

Insulin glargine (Lantus, Basaglar)

Insulin detemir (Levemir)

2 hours No pronounced peak 14-24 hours

Ultra-long-acting

Insulin degludec (Tresiba)

Insulin glargine (Toujeo)

1-6 hours No pronounced peak 36-40 hours
July 27, 2019 See more In-depth