Subcutaneous insulin: pharmacokinetic variability and glycemic variability

Diabetes Metab. 2005 Sep;31(4 Pt 2):4S7-4S24. doi: 10.1016/s1262-3636(05)88263-1.


The therapeutic goal in insulin-treated diabetic patients is to maintain on the long-term a tight glucose control (HbA1, < 6.5-7% or less) through an insulin regimen which "mimic" the physiological insulin profile: a basal insulin secretion to maintain glucose homeostasis and an acute post-prandial secretion in response to meal intake. Such goal represents a challenge for the clinician as conventional human insulins have major drawbacks: slow absorption and too late peak with regular insulins, delayed peak and often occuring at an unwanted time with intermediate and long-acting insulins. Furthermore, these insulins are characterised by a large within- and between-subjects variability, which complicate patients' task to self-adapt their daily doses, even for those well educated and compliants. These limitations and unpredictable variations in insulin action are responsible for an increased risk of hypoglycemic events, between meals as well as during the night period. As a consequence, glucose control is frequently insufficient in type 1 diabetic patients, and these limitations may contribute also to the delayed initiation of insulin therapy in type 2 diabetics when oral antidiabetic agents fail. This variability and the non-reproducibility of the conventional insulin pharmacodynamics are explained by several exogenous and endogenous factors describe in this review. Availability of new short-acting (lispro, aspart and glulisine) and long-acting analogs (glargine, detemir) of human insulin, with improved pharmacokinetic characteristics, and a lesser variability and better reproducibility, should facilitate a tight glucose control in insulin-treated patients. The main pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic characteristics of these new insulin analogs are presented and discussed in the light of there intra- and inter-individual variability. Their reduced variability should permit to reinforce near "physiological" insulin regimen such as "basal-bolus" technique and to consider new approaches and therapeutic strategies in type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Glucose / drug effects
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Insulin / administration & dosage*
  • Insulin / analogs & derivatives
  • Insulin / pharmacokinetics*


  • Blood Glucose
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin