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Insulin is an important hormone that helps keep blood sugar within normal levels. However, people who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes may not produce enough of it, and they may need to take it as a medication to keep their blood sugar under control. There are many different types of this medication available, including some that act quickly and others that stay in the body for a longer period of time. Possible side effects may include weight gain and reactions at the injection site.

What Is Insulin?

Insulin is an important hormone made by the pancreas. It is also a medication (actually, a group of medications) used to treat diabetes. There are many different types of these medications, which vary in how quickly they start to work and how long they last in the body.
(Click Insulin Uses for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Insulin?

Currently, all of the insulin medications sold in the United States are made by one of the following three manufacturers:
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Novo Nordisk
  • sanofi-aventis.

How Does It Work?

Insulin is a hormone that is naturally produced by the pancreas. This hormone is important for several functions, such as controlling blood sugar. It helps the cells of your body remove glucose ("sugar") from your bloodstream. This sugar fuels your body's cells, giving them the energy they need to work properly. You may need to take this hormone as a medication if your pancreas has trouble making enough of it, which is the case in people with type 1 diabetes and in some people who have type 2 diabetes.
Even though it is made in a laboratory, standard, "regular" insulin is identical to the hormone produced by the human body. Over the years, scientists have developed ways to slightly change the insulin molecule to change the way it works in the human body. Some forms are designed to start working quickly and to last only a short while. These are known as rapid-acting insulins and are used to control increases in blood sugar levels after meals. Other types are designed to provide a steady, slow, background rate of the hormone that lasts for a long period of time. These are known as long-acting insulins. There are also short-acting and intermediate-acting versions.
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Insulin Drug Information

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