Short-acting insulin analogues versus regular human insulin for adult, non-pregnant persons with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Dec 17;12(12):CD013228. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013228.


Background: The use of short-acting insulin analogues (insulin lispro, insulin aspart, insulin glulisine) for adult, non-pregnant people with type 2 diabetes is still controversial, as reflected in many scientific debates.

Objectives: To assess the effects of short-acting insulin analogues compared to regular human insulin in adult, non-pregnant people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Search methods: For this update we searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, the WHO ICTRP Search Portal, and to 31 October 2018. We placed no restrictions on the language of publication.

Selection criteria: We included all randomised controlled trials with an intervention duration of at least 24 weeks that compared short-acting insulin analogues to regular human insulin in the treatment of people with type 2 diabetes, who were not pregnant.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed the risk of bias. We assessed dichotomous outcomes by risk ratios (RR), and Peto odds ratios (POR), with 95% confidence intervals (CI). We assessed continuous outcomes by mean differences (MD) with 95% CI. We assessed trials for certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach.

Main results: We identified 10 trials that fulfilled the inclusion criteria, randomising 2751 participants; 1388 participants were randomised to receive insulin analogues and 1363 participants to receive regular human insulin. The duration of the intervention ranged from 24 to 104 weeks, with a mean of about 41 weeks. The trial populations showed diversity in disease duration, and inclusion and exclusion criteria. None of the trials were blinded, so the risk of performance bias and detection bias, especially for subjective outcomes, such as hypoglycaemia, was high in nine of 10 trials from which we extracted data. Several trials showed inconsistencies in the reporting of methods and results.None of the included trials defined all-cause mortality as a primary outcome. Six trials provided Information on the number of participants who died during the trial, with five deaths out of 1272 participants (0.4%) in the insulin analogue groups and three deaths out of 1247 participants (0.2%) in the regular human insulin groups (Peto OR 1.66, 95% CI 0.41 to 6.64; P = 0.48; moderate-certainty evidence). Six trials, with 2509 participants, assessed severe hypoglycaemia differently, therefore, we could not summarise the results with a meta-analysis. Overall, the incidence of severe hypoglycaemic events was low, and none of the trials showed a clear difference between the two intervention arms (low-certainty evidence).The MD in glycosylated haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) change was -0.03% (95% CI -0.16 to 0.09; P = 0.60; 9 trials, 2608 participants; low-certainty evidence). The 95% prediction ranged between -0.31% and 0.25%. The MD in the overall number of non-severe hypoglycaemic episodes per participant per month was 0.08 events (95% CI 0.00 to 0.16; P = 0.05; 7 trials, 2667 participants; very low-certainty evidence). The 95% prediction interval ranged between -0.03 and 0.19 events per participant per month. The results provided for nocturnal hypoglycaemic episodes were of questionable validity. Overall, there was no clear difference between the two short-acting insulin analogues and regular human insulin. Two trials assessed health-related quality of life and treatment satisfaction, but we considered the results for both outcomes to be unreliable (very low-certainty evidence).No trial was designed to investigate possible long term effects (all-cause mortality, microvascular or macrovascular complications of diabetes), especially in participants with diabetes-related complications. No trial reported on socioeconomic effects.

Authors' conclusions: Our analysis found no clear benefits of short-acting insulin analogues over regular human insulin in people with type 2 diabetes. Overall, the certainty of the evidence was poor and results on patient-relevant outcomes, like all-cause mortality, microvascular or macrovascular complications and severe hypoglycaemic episodes were sparse. Long-term efficacy and safety data are needed to draw conclusions about the effects of short-acting insulin analogues on patient-relevant outcomes.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / mortality
  • Glycated Hemoglobin / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Insulin / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin Aspart / therapeutic use*
  • Insulin Lispro / therapeutic use*
  • Quality of Life
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Glycated Hemoglobin A
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Insulin
  • Insulin Lispro
  • hemoglobin A1c protein, human
  • insulin glulisine
  • Insulin Aspart