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February 6, 2004

Insulin Analogs

Question from Canberra, ACT, Australia:

What do the words 'Aspart' and 'Lispro' mean and what is the difference between these two fast acting types of insulin? I am currently changing over from Humalog to Novorapid and am using both, sometimes in the one day - I presume there is no problem with this. Also do you know if Lantus is available in Australia yet and if so, does it go by the same name? As products may change names when made available outside America it can sometimes be a little confusing trying to identify these locally!


Some years back with advances in molecular genetics it became possible to isolate the human insulin gene and to introduce it into bacteria and yeasts to form the basis of the present semisynthetic insulin production. With further advances it became possible to change the amino acid sequence in the gene especially in the B chain which resulted in important changes in insulin function. In Lispro or Humalog insulin for example the positions of lysine and proline are switched to make a rapid acting product. In Aspart insulin (NovoLog or Novorapid) the position of aspartic acid has been changed. Ideally these insulins are given immediately after a meal with the dose adjusted to the pre-meal blood sugar and the number of ‘carbs’ consumed. Aspart insulin seems to take effect slightly before Lispro; but effectively they are the same, although I would suggest using one or the other as a routine. I had heard that Lantus or Glargine was available in Australia; but that there were restrictions on its prescription; but the best way to confirm this is to ask your pharmacist or if necessary the Aventis representative.