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Types of Insulin


Different types of insulin preparations are distinguished by the speed at which the injected insulin is absorbed from the layer under the skin into the blood (onset of action) and by the time it takes for all the injected insulin to be absorbed (duration of action).

It is important to note that the duration and absorption times described below are only approximate. Absorption of insulin always depends on individual factors.

Insulin analogues

  • Rapid-acting insulin analogue



Onset: 10-20 minutes
Maximum effect: 1-3 hours
Duration: 3-5 hours
Indication: treatment of diabetes mellitus

  • Long-acting insulin analogue


Onset: 1 hour
Duration: 24 hours
Indication: treatment of diabetes mellitus

  • Biphasic insulin analogue



Onset: 10-20 minutes
Maximum effect: 1-4 hours
Duration: up to 24 hours

Human insulins

  • Short-acting insulin
    (soluble human insulin)

This insulin comes in a clear solution, and is intended to be given at meals. An injection should be followed by a meal or snack containing carbohydrates within 30 minutes.


Onset: within 30 minutes
Maximum effect: 1-3 hours
Duration: 8 hours

  • Intermediate-acting insulin
    (isophane human insulin, NPH)

An insulin formulation that contains a substance, which delays the absorption of insulin. The combination of insulin and a delaying substance usually results in the formation of crystals that give the liquid a cloudy look. The insulin crystals must be homogenised (mixed) evenly before each injection. Intermediate-acting insulin takes approximately 1 1/2 hours before it begins to have an effect. The largest effect occurs between 4 and 12 hours after the injection, and after approximately 24 hours, the whole dose has been absorbed.



Onset: within 1.5 hours
Maximum effect: 4-12 hours
Duration: 24 hours

  • Premixed insulin

(biphasic human insulin consisting of e.g. 30% soluble and 70% isophane insulin)

Insulin containing a combination of a short-acting and an intermediate-acting insulin in standard proportions. These products eliminate the difficulty some individuals have while mixing insulin. The products come in several different premixed combinations containing 10-50% short-acting insulin and 90-50% intermediate-acting insulin, with the ratio of 30% short acting and 70% intermediate acting being the most used.



Onset: within 30 minutes
Maximum effect: 2-8 hours
Duration: 24 hours