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The Truth About Human Insulin

For more than half of the 30 years I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes, I depended on human insulin to effectively control my blood sugars.

During that time, the U.S healthcare system has changed a lot, and we know that this is causing people to pay more for their healthcare and their medicines, including the medicines we make here at Novo Nordisk. Several healthcare cost solutions are being discussed in the news. If insulin prices matter to you, then you’re likely following to see how some of these changes play out. 

We have also seen some misinformation about human insulin that I want to comment on. Specifically, I want to share why these older insulins can be an available, effective, and affordable option for people who require insulin for their diabetes care and do not have access to the modern insulin analogs. There’s been a lot of talk online saying the opposite and, as a doctor and the chief medical officer of Novo Nordisk, I don’t want someone who could benefit from human insulin not to use it because they’ve been misinformed that it’s not safe. Here are some important facts to know.

  1. Older, human insulin has been used effectively to lower blood glucose for decades by millions of Americans and people around the world.
  2. This type of insulin was used to establish the current diabetes standards of care through studies like the UK Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) in type 2 diabetes and the Diabetes Control and Complication Trial (DCCT) in type 1 diabetes. The standards of care set by the American Diabetes Association guidelines do not suggest one type of insulin over another. 
  3. Training is required whenever someone is prescribed insulin, whether that be human insulin or the newer analog insulin products. Differences in the timing of all types of insulin must be considered for patients to effectively use them. 
  4. Human and analog insulins work exactly the same way in lowering blood glucose once absorbed in the bloodstream, and by doing so have been shown to delay or prevent serious complications from diabetes. The difference in the types of insulin is related to how slowly or rapidly they are absorbed once injected. Scientific advances over the years have made improvements on the speed and length of time this absorption occurs.
  5. The suggestion that human insulin causes loss of vision, loss of limbs, kidney failure, coma, or death, is incorrect. No insulin has been linked to such complications. These complications can occur when diabetes isn’t controlled and blood sugars remain elevated over time. In fact, human insulin has been shown to decrease the risk of these events in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

As someone living well with type 1 diabetes, if I had to take human insulin again, I most certainly would. And as a doctor, I hope this helped you feel more informed on the truth about human insulin.  Don’t forget to talk to your healthcare provider to determine what options are right for your treatment.


Novo Nordisk’s human insulin is available for around $25/vial.

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