Insulin formulations--a review

Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. May-Jun 2001;5(3):73-83.


Although the improvement on insulin therapy since it was first conceived, it is still far from mimicking physiological secretion of pancreatic b-cells and research to find new insulin formulations and new routes of administration continues. Human biosynthetic insulin (rapid-acting, intermediate-acting and long-acting), produced by recombinant DNA technique, is currently available. The pharmacokinetic profile of rapid-acting insulin (regular) does not adequately reproduce the physiological post-prandial insulin response. This has led to the development of molecular analogues with slight modifications that prevent the spontaneous polymerisation underlying delayed absorption. Fast-acting analogues such as Lyspro and Aspart can be injected immediately before the meal, inducing a very fast and substantial peak of insulin, similar to that produced by b-cells, but have the disadvantage of short duration of action. For this reason, and because of the difficulty of obtaining sufficient basal insulin concentrations to control preprandial blood glucose levels with current long-acting insulins, analogues known as Glargine and Detemir have been synthesized. They have virtually no plasma peak and acts for about 24 h. These characteristics make it ideal to cover basal insulin requirement. With insulin analogues, it also seems possible to overcome the problem of intra- and inter-individual variability in absorption after subcutaneous injection. This variability is directly proportional to the duration of insulin action. Research into new routes of administration has led to production of inhaled insulin powder, soon to become commercially available. Insulin is absorbed through the lung alveoli. Trials to evaluate efficacy and toleration have shown that inhaled insulin has a similar kinetic profile to the fast-acting injected analogue and can therefore be used for mealtime requirement, combined with a single daily injection of long-acting insulin. Oral insulin is currently being studied in type 1 diabetes prevention with promising results.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Diabetes Mellitus / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / history
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Insulin / analogs & derivatives
  • Insulin / history
  • Insulin / pharmacokinetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use


  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Recombinant Proteins