Analogue insulin is a sub-group of human insulin. Analogue insulin is laboratory grown but genetically altered to create either a more rapid acting or more uniformly acting form of the insulin.
This can have advantages for blood sugar management.
Analogue insulins have been available since just before the start of the new millennium.
How is human analogue insulin produced?
Similar to human insulin, analogue insulin is laboratory created by growing insulin proteins within E-coli bacteria (Escherichia coli).
The process goes further through changing the order of amino acids to allow the insulin to be used by the body either more rapidly or more uniformly by the body than with regular human insulin.
This type of process is known as undergoing ‘recombinant DNA’ technology.
What types of analogue insulin are available?
Analogue insulin is available in two main forms, rapid acting and long acting, as well as premixed combinations.
Examples of analogue insulin:
- Rapid acting: Humalog, NovoRapid
- Long acting: Lantus, Levemir
- Premixed analogue insulins: Humalog Mix 25, Humalog Mix 50, NovoMix 30
What are premixed analogue insulins?
Premixed analogue insulins combine a ratio of rapid acting and long acting insulin.
For example, Humalog Mix 25 consists of 25% rapid acting and 75% long acting insulin.
How quickly do analogue insulins act?
Rapid acting insulins start to act immediately after injecting, with their peak action occurring within the first hour after injecting.
The duration is up to 4 hours.
Long acting insulin takes about 2 hours to start acting, and is designed to act uniformly so that there is no peak activity as such. The duration of long acting insulin is up to 24 hours. Your healthcare team will be able to advise whether you need one or two doses per day.
Benefits of analogue insulin
The primary benefits of analogue insulin are that the rapid acting insulin works as soon as it is injected and long acting insulins have no peak activity.
Rapid acting insulin is particularly useful for people who are insulin dependent as it can help to minimise sharp rises (spikes) in blood sugar shortly after eating.
Long acting analogue insulins have become popular partly because the lack of a peak activity period allows for easier prediction of how it acts and has also gives some people more confidence that they will avoid night time hypos.
Disadvantages of analogue insulin
As with human insulins, it has been reported that analogue insulins may lead to unwanted side effects such as loss of hypo awareness, lethargy and weight gain that might not be found when taking animal insulins.
To date, no conclusive research to confirm or deny this claim is available. Analogue insulins are still a relatively new treatment and therefore there is a lack of long term research. In 2009, a four country study highlighted a potential link between the use of Lantus and the development of cancer.
However, after the research was reviewed, the European Medicines Agency found the studies to not be consistent enough to either confirm or deny the link, and therefore cleared Lantus as being safe for use.
Price of analogue insulin
A further disadvantage of analogue insulin is in its price. Analogue insulins cost the NHS over twice as much as non-analogue human insulins.