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Guide to Insulin Duration

Insulin is a hormone that works by lowering levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. There are many types of insulin now available each with their own unique action and they are not interchangeable. There are three characteristics that define how insulin medication function:
 
1. Onset: How long it takes for the insulin to start lowering blood glucose

2. Peak time: Time after administration when the insulin is the most effective at lowering blood glucose

3. Duration: How long the insulin keeps lowering blood glucose

The chart and graph below will help you understand how the various insulin medications work.

Please note: These lists are for reference and educational use only. Pedagogy does not recommend the use of any product or product manufacturer. 
 

This resource accompanies our continuing education course, Diabetes: An Introduction, which is also part of  our Diabetes Continuing Education package

 


Guide to Insulin Duration

 

  ONSET PEAK DURATION
RAPID ACTING:
Insulin Lispro (Humalog) 15 - 30 min ½ - 2 ½  hr. 3 - 6 hr.
Insulin Aspart (NovoLog) 10 - 20 min 1 - 3 hr. 3 - 5 hr.
Insulin Glulisine (Apidra) 10 - 15 min 1 - 1 ½  hr. 3 - 5 hr.
SHORT ACTING:
Regular Insulin 30 - 60 min 1 - 5 hr. 6 - 10 hr.
INTERMEDIATE:
NPH Insulin 1 - 2 hr. 6 - 14 hr. 16 - 24 hr.
LONG ACTING:
Insulin Glargine (Lantus) 70 min N/A 18 - 24 hr.
Insulin Detemir (Levemir) 1 - 2 hr. 12 - 24 hr. Varies





Note: Graph is not scientifically accurate and is intended for visualization purposes only.
 
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