Understanding All Types of Insulin UK (2023)
Time to read 9 min
Time to read 9 min
Are you a resident in the UK who has recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? Or have you moved to the UK from another country and are looking to solve your insulin issue as fast as possible?
To help you find your best option, let’s explore all types of insulin in the UK. We’ll also differentiate between synthetic insulin types and their injection methods for you to make an informed decision regarding your blood sugar-controlling method.
You’re probably aware that some diabetic patients require synthetic insulin to control their blood sugar levels. But what if they use synthetic insulin? How does it work in their bodies?
Synthetic insulin mimics the natural insulin secretion in the human body. That secretion comes from the pancreas and could be secreted in response to a meal or to regulate the body’s sugar levels.
As such, two primary types of insulin were made: slow and fast-acting. Each type is further divided into other subcategories, but we’ll get to that point later in the discussion.
There are three types of synthetic insulin:
This is the most common type of insulin used to treat diabetic patients. Made using recombinant DNA technology; the result is often identical to human insulin.
This insulin type is made from the pancreas of cows or pigs. It’s cheaper than human insulin, but it’s known to cause some allergic reactions.
Animal insulins are rarely used. However, some people find purified animal insulin more suitable for them.
Insulin Analogues are essentially human insulin that’s been modified to have different characteristics. For example, they could have a faster onset or a longer duration.
As mentioned, we have slow-acting insulin and fast-acting insulin. We also have mixed insulin.
Let’s talk about them in detail.
The slow-acting or long-acting insulin works in the background, as it doesn’t immediately affect blood sugar levels. It also lasts in the bloodstream a lot longer than fast-acting insulin.
This insulin type may last up to 24 hours, mimicking how the pancreas secretes insulin outside mealtime to regulate the body’s sugar levels. This considerably reduces the required injections, making long-acting insulin a convenient option.
Because of its ability to mimic the pancreas’ secretion, this insulin is sometimes also known as background or basal insulin.
You may find one of the long-acting insulins, such as Humulin N, labelled as an intermediate-acting insulin. After all, while you don’t need to take insulin multiple times a day, you may still need to take it twice daily.
These types of insulin don’t last as long as regular long-acting insulins. However, their onset is usually faster than rapid-acting insulins.
Fast-acting, short-acting, or rapid-acting insulin provides an almost immediate effect once injected. That’s why it’s often taken multiple times daily, shortly before meals.
Just to remind you, short-acting insulin is only required if your meals contain carbohydrates. If you’re eating some vegetables, for example, then you won’t need to inject yourself with insulin.
Because it’s always associated with mealtime, rapid-acting insulin is also known as mealtime or bolus insulin.
Mixed insulin is a combination of slow and rapid-acting insulins. Having both injections in one dose allows you to reduce the number of injections per day. However, you’ll have a marked reduction in the flexibility of your routine.
For example, if you’re using mixed insulin, you won’t be able to join any unplanned exercises to avoid sudden and dangerous reductions in blood sugar levels. You must also ingest a set carbohydrate amount at fixed times throughout the day.
This regimen is the act of combining both the slow-acting insulin and the rapid-acting insulin together every day. It’s the typical way of handling type 1 diabetes.
The basal-bolus allows you to get the best of both types of insulin. The long-acting insulin would mimic how your pancreas secretes insulin throughout the day. On the other hand, short-acting insulin will prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking after you take in a hearty meal.
The one downside here is the number of injections. If you follow the basal-bolus regimen, you’ll need to inject yourself with insulin anywhere between 4–8 times daily.
This can be highly inconvenient, even if you don’t have a needle phobia. Fortunately, this is easy to handle if you use the needle-free Insujet Injections.
Using Insujet, you can painlessly inject yourself with insulin any time of the day. The InsuJet V5 needle-free injector is compatible with all U-100 insulins. It also has no battery, so you won’t have to worry about running out of charge when you need your insulin.
Also, it has a safety mechanism to prevent accidental injections. If maintained correctly, the injector can be used up to 5,000 times.
The needleless injections allow you to get the best of both types of insulin while discarding the one disadvantage they both have; needle pain.
Now that we understand the primary insulin types and how they work, let’s have a look at the subdivision of each:
Here are the types of slow-acting insulin in the UK:
Also known as Lantus SoloStar, Insulin Glargine is a long-acting insulin used to treat insulin-dependent patients of type 1 and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The dose forms could be injectable solutions or prefilled pens, both of which are 100 units/mL. If you want to know more about Lantus, please visit its official website.
Sometimes known as Levemir, Insulin Determir is also a long-acting insulin that can be taken once or twice a day, depending on the severity of diabetes and its type.
Like Insulin Glargine, Determir can be an injectable solution or a pen for mobility and convenience. If you'd like to learn more about Levemir, you can click here.
Under the Tresbia trade Tresbia, Insulin Degludec is another long-acting insulin for both diabetes types. However, Tresbia differs from the previous two types because it’s not contraindicated with pramlintide, an injectable amylin analogue used for diabetes treatment.
It also comes in injectable solution form, and its dose can either be 100 units/mL or 200 units/mL. For more about Tresbia, check out its official website.
Here are the types of rapid-acting insulin in the UK:
Insulin Aspart, aka Novorapid, is a fast-acting insulin used in both types of diabetes shortly before meals. Its effect comes into action anywhere between 10-20 after injection. Accordingly, your injection should be at least 10 minutes before your meal.
Alternatively, you may use Fiasp, a faster formula that takes only five minutes to start working.
Insulin Aspart comes as injectable solutions or prefilled syringes. For more information about Novorapid, click here.
Insulin Lispro is often sold under the name Humalog. It’s a short-acting insulin that takes 15–30 minutes to take effect. It’s used by people with type 1 or 2 diabetes dependent on insulin.
Insulin Lispro’s dose is 100 units/mL for injectable solutions and pens. For more about Humalog, check the official website here.
Commonly known as Apidra, Insulin Glulisine is a rapid-acting insulin for both types of diabetes mellitus. Much like Insulin Aspart, it takes place around 10-20 minutes after injecting it.
As usual, its dose is 100 units/mL; you can purchase it as prefilled pens or injectable solutions. For more, visit Apidra’s official website.
With all types of insulin available, you might wonder which is best for you. While physicians mostly advise the type of insulin to take, the method is often left for the patient to choose as they see fit.
There are four methods for insulin administration:
The first method to inject insulin was the traditional vial and needle duo. The patient manually draws the insulin into a plastic syringe of the size suitable to their condition.
Afterwards, they would subcutaneously inject the insulin at specific times according to their doctor’s recommendations and/or meal times.
It’s straightforward and quick
Insulin syringes are readily available
Requires manual filling of the syringe to get the proper dose
It may be highly inconvenient for those who fear needles
Requires careful insertion to inject subcutaneously
Insujet injections remove all the cons of traditional injections. First and foremost, the painful needle sting is gone because there’s no needle to worry about.
Second, you no longer have to worry about the injection depth; you only have to direct the injector on your body and press a button.
Last but not least, the dose is calculated within the injector. You no longer have to draw the appropriate quantity from the vial.
Easy to use
The injector will not work if damaged, so it’s best to keep it intact
Insulin pumps are small, portable devices attached to the patient’s body and constantly pump controlled insulin doses at their required times.
That removes the hassle of setting reminders or remembering when to take your insulin dose.
They automatically inject insulin at the needed times
Except for inserting the catheter under the skin for the first time, the injection is painless
Although small, the pump is still attached all the time to the patient’s body
Think of smart insulin pens as Insujet injectors, but with the needles still attached. Mobile and easy to carry, they inject controlled doses when used, eliminating the need for manually drawing insulin from a vial.
Although fast and convenient, they still have needles, which doesn’t solve the problem for those who fear needles.
Mobile, easy to carry, and easy to use
The inject calculated doses to minimise errors
They still have a needle, which makes them somewhat painful
Long-acting insulin is generally safer than short and intermediate-acting types of insulin.
It regulates blood sugar levels throughout the day and reduces the risk of hypoglycaemia that a patient may experience if they take short-acting insulin and skip a meal.
While slow-acting insulin is the safest, many still prefer the Basal-Bolus regimen. This is because taking long-acting insulin alone may still restrict your food options.
However, mixing both types of insulin allows you to enjoy your meals even if they have carbohydrates.
InsuJet needle-free injections are arguably the most convenient method for insulin-dependent patients.
Not only does it eliminate the needle from the injection process, but it’s also compatible with most types of insulin.
Synthetic insulin could be short-acting, long-acting, or intermediate-acting. The available long-acting types in the UK are Glargine, Determir, and Degludec. Aspart, Lispro, and Glulisine are the currently available short-acting insulin types.
All of them can be injected using insulin needles, pens, pumps, and needle-free InsuJets. Choosing the type of insulin can be restricted by your physician, but choosing the delivery method is mostly up to you.