Description and Brand Names

Drug information provided by: Merative, Micromedex®


Insulin is one of many hormones that helps the body turn the food we eat into energy. Also, insulin helps us store energy that we can use later. After we eat, insulin works by causing sugar (glucose) to go from the blood into our body's cells to make fat, sugar, and protein. When we need more energy between meals, insulin will help us use the fat, sugar, and protein that we have stored. This occurs whether we make our own insulin in the pancreas gland or take it by injection.

Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) is a condition in which the body does not make enough insulin to meet its needs or does not properly use the insulin it makes. Without insulin, glucose cannot get into the body's cells. Without glucose, the cells will not work properly.

To work properly, the amount of insulin you use must be balanced against the amount and type of food you eat and the amount of exercise you do. If you change your diet, your exercise, or both without changing your insulin dose, your blood glucose level can drop too low or rise too high. A prescription is not necessary to purchase most insulin. However, your doctor must first determine your insulin needs and provide you with special instructions for control of your diabetes

Insulin can be obtained from beef or pork pancreas glands. Another type of insulin that you may use is called human insulin. It is just like the insulin made by humans but it is made by methods called semi-synthetic or recombinant DNA. All types of insulin must be injected because, if taken by mouth, insulin is destroyed in the stomach.

Insulin is available only with your doctor's prescription.