A low level of background or basal insulin is needed to maintain blood glucose levels at a ‘normal’ level. If you do not have this background level of insulin your blood sugar concentrations would start to rise 4 hours after a meal when the short-acting insulin starts to wear off.
Traditional basal insulins have had a duration of action which is variable, depending on absorption usually lasting about 12 hours.
Detemir is a new basal (long acting) insulin analogue which was launched in the UK in June 2004. It is a soluble (clear in solution unlike isophane insulin which is cloudy) and is designed to provide a smooth, prolonged effect.
Long-acting human insulin analogues (insulin glargine and insulin detemir) are made by altering the chemical structure of insulin to allow more consistent release during the day, thereby mimicking natural basal insulin release.
See insulin glargine for more information.
Detemir is used in combination with meal-time short acting insulin administered either twice daily or once daily as part of a ‘basal-bolus regime. It is given as a subcutaneous injection similar to conventional insulins.
A basal-bolus regimen describes the use of a short-acting insulin before each meal (the ‘bolus’ or mealtime dose), and long-acting insulin at bedtime (the ‘basal’ dose).
Insulin Detemir is a ‘man-made’ insulin which has been engineered in the laboratory. It is ‘clear’ in appearance, unlike commonly used long acting insulin (isophane insulin) which is cloudy.
Data has shown that when administered twice daily, insulin detemir has a lower risk of causing hypoglycaemia when compared to isophane insulin.
The action of Insulin Detemir has been shown to last for about 20 hours which is considerably longer than the action of Human Insulatard which lasts for about 12 hours.
What advantages does Detemir offer when compared with Isophane insulin (InsulatardR) ?
Levemir FlexPenR prefilled disposable pen injection device
3 ml cartridges for use with NovoPenR devices
Each cartridge or pen device contains 3 ml of insulin detemir (100 Units/ml)
At the time of writing the cost of 5 pre-filled FlexPen devices (5x300 units) is £39 (NHS price)
Dr Nishan Wijenaike