Types of Insulin

There are different types of insulin and they can be subdivided into:

  • Rapid acting insulin. Rapid-acting insulin starts to work about 15 minutes after injection and works for about 3 to 5 hours.Examples of rapid acting insulin are insulin lispro with brand name of Humalog, insulin glulisine which has brand name of Apidra and aspart insulin which is also called novolog insulin.
  • Short acting insulin. Short-acting insulin starts working in 30 to 60 minutes after injection and works for 5 to 8 hours. Examples of short acting insulin are the regular insulin Humulin R and Novolin R.
  • Intermediate acting insulin: Intermediate-acting insulin starts working in about 1 to 3 hours after the insulin injection and works for about 12 to 16 hours. Example of intermediate acting insulin is NPH insulin.
  • Long acting insulin:Long-acting insulinstarts to work in about 1 hour after injection. It works continuously for about 20 to 26 hours. Examples of long acting insulin are insulin detemir, also called levemir insulin and insulin glargine, which is also called lantus insulin.
  • Pre-mixed NPH (intermediate-acting) and regular (short-acting),
  • Pre-mixed insulin lispro protamine suspension (intermediate-acting) and insulin lispro (rapid-acting.
  • Pre-mixed insulin aspart protamine suspension (intermediate-acting) and insulin aspart (rapid-acting).


Sometimes the rapid acting insulin and the short actin insulin are given as insulin sliding scale. This means that the doctor writes the order for the insulin so that the dose increases as the blood sugar increases, up to a certain maximum dose. Insulin sliding scale is used to help the diabetic person to adjust the insulin dose to prevent hypoglycemia or low blood sugar and hyperglycemia or high blood sugar.


It is good for the patient to have information on the types of insulin he or she is using in order to know how to effectively monitor blood glucose..


  • The level of administered insulin in the blood at any time depends on:
  • Type of insulin.
  • Dose
  • Site of injection.
  • Physical activity.
  • Temperature.
  • How well the person's blood flows.


The insulin types have different onset, peak and duration.


The onset is how long after injection the insulin starts to work in the body.

The peak is the time when the insulin is providing the most glucose lowering effect in the body.

The duration is how long the insulin works in the body, overall.

The table below groups different insulin brands into the types of insulin, generic names, times of onset, peak and the duration of action.


Table of Types of Insulin


Type of Insulin

Brand Name Generic Name Onset Peak Duration
Rapid-acting __ NovoLog __ Insulin aspart 15 minutes 30 to 90 minutes 3 to 5 hours
__ Apidra __ Insulin glulisine 15 minutes 30 to 90 minutes 3 to 5 hours
__ Humalog __ Insulin lispro 15 minutes 30 to 90 minutes 3 to 5 hours
Short-acting __ Humulin R __ Regular (R) 30 to 60 minutes 2 to 4 hours 5 to 8 hours
__ Novolin R
Intermediate-acting __ Humulin N __ NPH (N) 1 to 3 hours 8 hours 12 to 16 hours
__ Novolin N
Long-acting __ Levemir __ Insulin detemir 1 hour Peakless 20 to 26 hours
__ Lantus __ Insulin glargine
Pre-mixed NPH
(intermediate-acting)
and regular (short-acting)
__ Humulin 70/30
__ Novolin 70/30
__ 70% NPH and 30% regular 30 to 60 minutes Varies 10 to 16 hours
__ Humulin 50/50 __ 50% NPH and 50% regular 30 to 60 minutes Varies 10 to 16 hours
Pre-mixed insulin lispro protamine suspension (intermediate-acting) and insulin lispro (rapid-acting __ Humalog Mix 75/25 __ 75% insulin lispro protamine and 25% insulin lispro 10 to 15 minutes Varies 10 to 16 hours
__ Humalog Mix 50/50 __ 50% insulin lispro protamine and 50% insulin lispro 10 to 15 minutes Varies 10 to 16 hours
Pre-mixed insulin aspart protamine suspension (intermediate-acting) and insulin aspart (rapid-acting) __ NovoLog Mix 70/30 __ 70% insulin aspart protamine
and 30% insulin aspart
5 to 15 minutes Varies 10 to 16 hours


Source: NIH

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