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Humulin vs Novolin – What is The Difference

Humulin and Novolin are two of the most common choices for insulin. Due to their popularity, they are prescribed, purchased and used by millions of diabetics worldwide. But the downside is that there seems to be a lot of confusion between the two. As they are similar, a patient may be prescribed one and then the other. This causes undue inconveniences and last-mile issues which ultimately leads to trouble managing diabetes. So in this article we will once and for all clear any doubts about these two drugs.

Read this article till the end to find out exactly the differences between Humulin and Novolin.

What are Humulin and Novolin?

Humulin and Novolin are two brands of the same generic Insulin NPH. It is a common drug used for controlling blood glucose level in diabetes.

Diabetes is a disorder that reduces the body’s ability to absorb glucose from digested food. As a result the glucose accumulates in the blood and causes many adverse complications.

Diabetes left uncontrolled can cause many diseases like kidney failure, blindness, coma and even death. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body to absorb glucose and reduce the blood glucose level.

So it directly helps in controlling blood glucose level and thus helps control diabetes. Insulin is taken regularly either as pills or injected directly as a solution using a syringe. Humulin and Novolin are both injectable forms of Insulin NPH.

Humulin and Novolin:

Humulin and Novolin are two brands of the same Insulin NPH. Humulin is manufactured by Eli Lily and Company. On the other hand, Novolin is produced by the company Novo Nordisk. There are many variations of these two kinds of Insulin. There are Humulin R and Novolin R which are short-acting insulin. Then there are Humulin N and Novolin N which are intermediate-acting. There are also 50/50 and 70/30 compositions of both drugs available.

Novolin and Humulin R:

It is s short-acting insulin that:

  • Starts to work within half an hour after injection
  • Reaches peak activity at around 2 to 3 hours
  • Effect lasts for up to 8 hours.

Novolin and Humulin N:

In is an intermediate-acting variant that:

  • Begins working within 2 to 4 hours after injection
  • Reaches peak activity in 4 to 12 hours
  • Effects last for 12 to 18 hours.

Novolin and Humulin 70:30:

These are a combination of insulins that are usually administered 30 minutes before a meal. They contain:

  • A short-acting insulin
  • An intermediate-acting insulin.

These premixed insulins make dosing simple and easy for people needing insulin because they already have a short-acting and an intermediate-acting insulin in them. They start to work within 10 to 20 minutes after injection, reach peak activity in 2 hours, and keep working for up to 24 hours.

Differences between Humulin and Novolin:

As discussed, Humulin and Novolin are actually the same drug manufactured under different brands. They have similar compositions and actions. They both have short and intermediate acting variants. Another important thing is that they are uncontrolled. They are not subject to the Controlled Substances Act. Thus they can be purchased over the counter without a prescription.

One of the small differences between Humulin and Novolin is that while both can be administered as a solution directly, Humulin N also comes with a solution that can be injected with a device called Kwikpen.

Even though these drugs are very similar, always double check with your doctor before switching. It is important to take your doctor’s advice before making any kind of change to your medication to prevent any potentially harmful interactions.

Humulin vs Novolin:

So far, it has become clear that Humulin and Novolin are identical variations of Insulin NPH. Here are some key features of the drugs seen side by side. In the comparison the similarities and dissimilarity between Humulin and Novolin can be easily understood:

Humulin NNovolin N
Insulin isophaneInsulin isophane
Subcutaneous suspensionSubcutaneous suspension
Over the counter availabilityOver the counter availability
12-18 hours effect12-18 hours effect
Used for long-term treatmentUsed for long-term treatment
Quantity – 3 mLQuantity – 3 mL
Dosage – 100 units/mLDosage – 100 units/mL
Kwikpen availableNo Kwikpen available
Price Per Unit – $18.69Price Per Unit – $9.73 – $15.33

So, it’s quite clear that both Humuloin and Novolin are very similar, having near identical characteristics. The only real difference being that Humulin is available with Kwikpen support while Novolin is not.

However, this means that Humulin is slightly more expensive at $18.69 per unit. On the other hand, Novolin is cheaper starting at $9.73 and reaching upto $15.33 per unit.

Side-effects of Humulin and Novolin:

As with any form of medication, Humulin and Novolin have some side-effects that may be caused due to various factors. These side-effects and reactions are quite rare, but it’s important to always be careful. If you experience any of the listed side-effects or reactions, or see them in anyone close to you, contact your nearest health services as soon as possible.

Side-effects may include but are not limited to:

  • Allergic reactions: rashes, hives, itching, swelling or inflammation, blister on skin, skin peeling off, trouble breathing, shortness of breath, hoarseness of voice, etc.
  • Low Potassium levels: muscle pain, weakness, muscle cramps, arrhythmia, etc.
  • Problems with eyesight and vision.
  • Burning sensation, burning, numbness of the body.
  • Mood changes.
  • Dizziness, slurred speech or passing out.
  • Thickness of the skin at the sight of injection. Presence of pits or lumps in the surrounding area.
  • Low blood sugar: nausea, headache, drowsiness, feeling weak, shaking, fast heartbeat or palpitation, hunger and sweating.

If you face any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor immediately. If you’re facing low blood sugar or hypoglycaemia, take the necessary steps to prevent losing consciousness. This may include taking glucose as a solution or in tablet form or eating something with high sugar content like fruits, juice, etc.

Interactions of Humulin and Novolin:

As Humulin and Novolin are both Insulins, they have the same interactions with other drugs or health conditions. Humulin and Novolin have both been confirmed to have 15 major drug interactions, 314 moderate and 40 minor ones.

The drugs commonly known to interact with Humulin and Novolin are listed below:

  • Antidepressants : fluoxetine, escitalopram, monoamine oxidase inhibitors : isocarboxazid
  • Antipsychotics : aripiprazole, clozapine
  • Corticosteroids : dexamethasone
  • Diuretics : bendroflumethiazide
  • Fluoroquinolones : ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin
  • HIV medicines : atazanavir, ritonavir
  • Hormones : estrogen, progesterone or testosterone
  • Octreotide
  • Orlistat
  • Antidiabetic agents : glyburide, glipizide
  • Pentamidine
  • Pentoxifylline
  • Propoxyphene
  • Pseudoephedrine
  • Salicylates : aspirin
  • Beta-blockers : atenolol or bisoprolol
  • ACE inhibitors : enalapril or captopril
  • ARBs : candesartan or losartan
  • Sulfonamide antibiotics

Humulin and Novolin also have some disease interactions:

  • Kidney diseases
  • Liver diseases
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Hypokalemia

This is not the conclusive list of all the interactions for Humulin and Novolin. This list is not meant for academic use or clinical practice. You can find more detailed and research-oriented material regarding the full range of interactions of these drugs online.

Conclusion:

So, to sum up, Humulin and Novolin are the same drug, Insulin, marketed under different brand names by different manufacturers. They have identical composition, identical variants, identical dosages and identical actions. The main takeaway is that though these drugs are similar, always speak to your physician before changing your medication and always report if you face any kind of untoward side-effects or reactions.

So, we hope this article has once and for all put to rest all your doubts and quenched your curiosity about Humulin and Novolin. Check out our other articles about diabetes control and management to help yourself take care of diabetes and live your tension-free.

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I'm a medical student from Bangladesh. As a doctor in the making, I'm fascinated by the regular advancements of medical science. This fuels my passion for trying to follow a health-conscious lifestyle. I love writing and sharing thoughts and ideas. I hope that my work can reach out and help people to enjoy a healthy, happy life. Muhtasim Munir MBBS (3rd year) Armed Forces Medical College