Insulin Types

There are four main types of insulin. They differ in:

  • how fast they work, called their onset
  • when they work the best, called their peak
  • how long they last, called their duration

By combining shorter- and longer-acting insulins, you can match your body's insulin needs. Everyone needs a continuous low level of insulin to carry out the body's normal activities, and everyone needs bursts of insulin after eating.
Type of Insulin  Generic Name  Brand Name  Work 
Work Best, or "Peak" at Lasts 
Rapid-Acting  insulin lispro (human) Humalog 15 minutes 30 to 90 minutes 3 to 4 hours
insulin aspart NovoLog
  insulin glusiline Apidra      
Short-Acting  insulin injection Humulin R 30 minutes  1 to 3 hours 6 to 8 hours 
(regular) Novolin R 
Novolin R PenFill 
Novolin R Prefilled 
Velosulin Human BR 
    Regular Iletin II       
Intermediate-Acting  isophane insulin suspension (NPH) Humulin N about 2 hours 4 to 12 hours 24 hours
Novolin N 
Novolin N PenFill 
Novolin N Prefilled 
Long-Acting  insulin glargine Lantus about 2 hours  no peak up to 24 hours
  isulin detemir Levemir      
NPH/R Mixtures  insulin isophane suspension Humulin 70/30 about 30 minutes 2 to 12 hours 18 to 24 hours
regular insulin Humulin 50/50
Novolin 70/30
insulin lispro protamine Humalog about 15 to 30 minutes 2 to 12 hours 18 to 24 hours
  insulin lispro Mix 75/25      


Written by award-winning health writer Bobbie Hasselbring
Reviewed by Beth Seltzer, MD
Last updated June 2008

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