Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition affecting 463 million people globally, and it is estimated that 150–200 million people worldwide depend on insulin therapy to manage their health. With a variety of insulin options available, choosing the right insulin is crucial but it can be overwhelming. Two common types people come across are Novolin R and Humulin R. Although similar, these insulins have important differences that could impact your diabetes management.

In this article, you will discover the key differences between Novolin R and Humulin R. You’ll also learn how each insulin works, its benefits, potential side effects, and how it compares effectiveness and cost. Whether you are newly diagnosed or considering a switch in your insulin therapy, this guide will provide clear, concise information to help you make an informed decision with your healthcare provider.

Key Takeaways

  • Both Novolin R and Humulin R are human insulins that improve glycemic control in adults and children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
  • Novolin R cannot be mixed with other insulins except for NPH insulin, while Humulin R has specific warnings against use if there’s a history of allergic reactions to its ingredients.
  • Novolin R and Humulin R are injectable solutions, but their concentration and packaging options differ. Novolin R typically comes in a specific concentration, while Humulin R is available in a 100 units per mL concentration with different vial sizes.
  • Side effects for both include hypoglycemia and potential injection site reactions, but Humulin R also lists lipodystrophy, weight gain, and possible severe reactions like anaphylaxis among its common and severe side effects.
  • Novolin R issues significant warnings regarding hypoglycemia and hypokalemia, while Humulin R emphasizes the risks associated with needle sharing, changes in insulin regimen, and the need to monitor potassium levels for those at risk of hypokalemia.

Comparing Novolin R vs. Humulin R

Novolin RHumulin R
Drug ClassInsulinInsulin
Indications and UsesNovolin R is indicated to improve glycemic control in adults and children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.Humulin R is indicated to improve glycemic control in adults and children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Limitations of UseDo not use if you have hypoglycemia or are hypersensitive to Novolin R or any of its components. It should not be mixed with other insulins except for NPH insulin.It is not for use if you have ever been allergic to Humulin R or its ingredients.
Dosage And AdministrationInjectable solutionInjectable solution
Forms and StrengthsAvailable as an injectable solution with a 100 USP units/mL concentration.Available in a concentration of 100 units per mL (U-100).

Available in 10 mL multiple-dose vials and 3 mL multiple-dose vials.

Side EffectsHypoglycemia, severe allergic reactions, injection site reactions, and potentially hypokalemia.Common side effects include hypoglycemia, allergic reactions, injection site reactions, lipodystrophy, weight gain, edema, pruritus, and rash.

Severe side effects may include anaphylaxis, generalized skin reactions, and hypokalemia.

Warnings and PrecautionsHypoglycemia and hypokalemia are significant risks. Caution is advised in renal or hepatic impairment, during changes in insulin or dosage, and in specific settings such as IV administration or in patients with certain medical conditions that may affect insulin action or metabolism.Never share needles or syringes, Changes in insulin regimen can affect glycemic control and predispose to hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. Monitor potassium levels in patients at risk of hypokalemia; Observe for signs of heart failure when used with thiazolidinediones (TZDs).
US Cost$165.40 per vial

$185.94 per vial

Buy Canadian Insulin PriceNovolin R is currently unavailable
QuantityPricePrice Per Vial

Novolin RWhat Is Novolin R?

Novolin R is a type of insulin used to manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It is a regular human insulin made through recombinant DNA technology, producing it using genetically engineered yeast. Novolin R was first approved for use in the United States in 1991, making it a long-standing option for diabetes treatment. This insulin is typically used to control blood sugar throughout the day and can be administered through injections under the skin or directly into a vein under medical supervision.

Humulin RWhat Is Humulin R?

Humulin R is a type of insulin used to manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It’s a human insulin, which means it’s made to work just like the insulin naturally produced by the body. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose, which comes from the food we eat, enter the cells in our body to be used for energy. People with diabetes either can’t produce enough insulin or can’t use insulin properly, leading to high blood sugar levels. Humulin R is used to help control these levels, improving overall blood glucose management. This type of insulin acts quickly and is usually taken around meal times to manage the rise in blood sugar after eating.

Dosage And Administration

Novolin R

The dosing of Novolin R is highly individualized to meet each patient’s specific needs, reflecting their daily activities, diet, and overall health condition. Essential to effective diabetes management, the daily insulin requirement generally ranges from 0.5 to 1.0 units/kg/day but must be adjusted based on regular blood glucose monitoring. For subcutaneous administration, Novolin R should ideally be injected about 30 minutes before meals to allow the insulin to work as blood glucose levels rise post-meal.

Common sites for subcutaneous injection include the abdomen, where absorption is typically faster, as well as the thighs, buttocks, or upper arms, with recommendations to rotate injection sites within these areas to prevent tissue changes like lipodystrophy.

For intravenous use, reserved for specific clinical settings like surgery or severe hyperglycemia, Novolin R should be administered at concentrations ranging from 0.05 units/mL to 1.0 units/mL. This mode of administration requires close monitoring of blood glucose and potassium levels to avoid complications such as hypoglycemia and hypokalemia.

Humulin R

The Humulin R can be administered subcutaneously roughly 30 minutes before meals, and it’s essential to rotate the injection sites to prevent issues such as lipodystrophy and localized cutaneous amyloidosis. For patients requiring intravenous administration, Humulin R should only be administered under strict medical supervision to manage acute risks like hypoglycemia and hypokalemia. Concentration levels for IV use range from 0.1 unit/mL to 1 unit/mL, mixed in a solution containing 0.9% sodium chloride.

Patients and healthcare providers must also pay attention to the insulin’s mixing instructions, especially when used with other insulin types like Humulin N, to ensure proper use and avoid medication errors. Monitoring blood glucose levels frequently helps adjust the dosage accurately to achieve the desired glycemic control, adapting to changes in daily activities, meal patterns, or health status.

How Effective Are the Novolin R vs. Humulin R in Treating Diabetes?

Novolin R and Humulin R are both effective in treating diabetes, and their effectiveness is quite similar based on studies that compare them. One study involved a randomized, double-blind, cross-over pharmacokinetics (PK)/pharmacodynamics (PD) euglycaemic clamp study. In this study, both Novolin R and Humulin R were administered to 18 healthy volunteers, who were given a single intravenous dose of 0.15 IU/kg.

The study monitored blood glucose levels at frequent intervals and found that both insulins had similar effects on blood glucose levels, indicating that they are equally effective. Another study involved 24 volunteers who received a subcutaneous injection of 0.3 IU/kg, which lasted for 10 hours. This study also supported the finding that Novolin R is bioequivalent to Humulin R, meaning their effectiveness in treating diabetes by managing blood sugar levels is practically the same. Thus, either insulin can be used effectively for diabetes management.

Side Effects of Novolin R vs. Humulin R

Novolin R

The side effects of Novolin R, as noted in clinical trials and observations, include a range of common and potentially serious adverse reactions:

  • Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia is the most common adverse reaction, with the following incidence rates: 72% in adults with type 1 diabetes, 36% in adults with type 2 diabetes, and 85% in children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes.
  • Allergic Reactions: Local reactions include redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site. These usually resolve within a few days to weeks. Severe, life-threatening, generalized allergies, including anaphylaxis.
  • Injection Site Reactions: Injection site hypertrophy (thickening of the skin) was reported by 8% of children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes in clinical trials.
  • Lipodystrophy: Long-term use can cause changes at the site of repeated insulin injections, including lipohypertrophy (thickening of adipose tissue) and lipoatrophy (thinning of adipose tissue).
  • Weight Gain: This can occur with insulin therapy and is attributed to the anabolic effects of insulin and the decrease in glucosuria.
  • Peripheral Edema: Insulin may cause sodium retention and edema, especially if metabolic control is improved quickly with intensified insulin therapy.
  • Ophthalmologic Issues: Intensification or rapid improvement in glucose control has been associated with transitory, reversible ophthalmologic refraction disorder and worsening of diabetic retinopathy.
  • Neuropathy: Acute painful peripheral neuropathy may occur with rapid improvements in glucose control.

Humulin R

The side effects of Humulin R, as listed in the prescribing information, include the following:

  • Hypoglycemia: This is the most common adverse reaction and can be severe, leading to seizures, unconsciousness, or even death. Symptoms include impaired concentration and reaction time and could potentially endanger the user and others, especially in activities like driving.
  • Hyperglycemia: Occurs with changes in insulin regimen and can affect glycemic control. It may predispose users to severe hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.
  • Allergic Reactions: These include severe, life-threatening allergies, such as anaphylaxis, skin reactions, rash, angioedema, bronchospasm, hypotension, and shock.
  • Injection Site Reactions: Includes pain, redness, swelling, itching, and changes at the injection site like lipodystrophy (thickening or pitting of the skin).
  • Weight Gain: Attributed to the anabolic effects of insulin.
  • Edema and Heart Failure: Insulin, including Humulin R, can cause fluid retention, which may lead to or exacerbate heart failure, particularly when used with PPAR-gamma agonists.
  • Lipodystrophy: Long-term use can cause changes at the injection site, affecting insulin absorption.
  • Localized Cutaneous Amyloidosis: Repeated injections into the same area can lead to skin changes that may affect blood sugar levels.
  • Low Potassium (Hypokalemia): Insulin treatment can cause a significant decrease in potassium, which can be dangerous.
  • Medication Errors: These occur when different insulins are accidentally substituted for Humulin R.
  • Immunogenicity: Administration of insulin can cause the body to produce anti-insulin antibodies. The incidence of antibody formation with Humulin R is not detailed.

Drug Interactions

Novolin R

The drug interactions associated with Novolin R, as described in the prescribing information, involve various medications that can either enhance or diminish the blood glucose-lowering effect of insulin:

Medications that may increase the hypoglycemic effect of Novolin R, thus increasing susceptibility to hypoglycemia:

  • Oral antidiabetic medications
  • Pramlintide acetate
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Disopyramide
  • Fibrates
  • Fluoxetine
  • Monoamine oxidase (MAO) inhibitors
  • Propoxyphene
  • Salicylates
  • Somatostatin analogs (e.g., octreotide)
  • Sulfonamide antibiotics

Medications that may reduce the blood glucose-lowering effect of insulin, leading to worsening of glycemic control:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Niacin
  • Danazol
  • Diuretics
  • Sympathomimetic agents (e.g., epinephrine, salbutamol, terbutaline)
  • Isoniazid
  • Phenothiazine derivatives
  • Somatropin
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Estrogens
  • Progestogens (e.g., in oral contraceptives)
  • Atypical antipsychotics

Medications that may have a variable effect on blood glucose levels:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Clonidine
  • Lithium salts
  • Alcohol

Humulin R

The drug interactions for Humulin R, as detailed in the prescribing information, are categorized based on their effect on blood glucose levels. Here are the interactions:

Drugs that may increase the risk of hypoglycemia:

  • Antidiabetic agents
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor-blocking agents
  • Disopyramide
  • Fibrates
  • Fluoxetine
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Pentoxifylline
  • Pramlintide
  • Salicylates
  • Somatostatin analog (e.g., octreotide)
  • Sulfonamide antibiotics

Drugs that may decrease the blood glucose lowering effect of Humulin R:

  • Atypical antipsychotics (e.g., olanzapine, clozapine)
  • Corticosteroids
  • Danazol
  • Diuretics
  • Estrogens
  • Glucagon
  • Isoniazid
  • Niacin
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Phenothiazines
  • Progestogens (e.g., in oral contraceptives)
  • Protease inhibitors
  • Somatropin
  • Sympathomimetic agents (e.g., albuterol, epinephrine, terbutaline)
  • Thyroid hormones

Drugs that may increase or decrease the blood glucose lowering effect of Humulin R:

  • Alcohol
  • Beta-blockers
  • Clonidine
  • Lithium salts
  • Pentamidine may cause hypoglycemia, which may sometimes be followed by hyperglycemia.

Drugs that may affect signs and symptoms of Hypoglycemia:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Clonidine
  • Guanethidine
  • Reserpine


Both Novolin R and Humulin R are essential insulin medications used to manage blood sugar levels in individuals with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. While they share several similarities, including their drug class, indications for use, and general approach to dosage and administration, subtle differences might influence a healthcare professional’s choice. These differences can include their formulations, specific side effects, and the detailed precautions associated with their use.

Ultimately, the choice between Novolin R and Humulin R depends on individual patient needs the potential for allergic reactions, cost considerations, and the healthcare provider’s preference. Both medications play a vital role in diabetes management, aiming to improve glycemic control and enhance the quality of life for those affected by this chronic condition. Regular monitoring, patient education, and adherence to the prescribed insulin regimen are crucial for achieving optimal blood sugar control and preventing diabetes-related complications.


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FAQs About Novolin R and Humulin R

Which is better Novolin R and Humulin R?

Both Novolin R and Humulin R are short-acting insulins used to control blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. They are both human insulin products but differ slightly in their formulations and may have slightly different onset and duration of action.

How do I choose between Novolin R and Humulin R?

Choosing between Novolin R and Humulin R depends on individual health considerations, potential side effects, cost factors, and personal or healthcare provider preferences. Discussing these aspects with your healthcare provider, who can tailor the choice based on your specific health needs and treatment goals, is important.

What alternatives are available for Humulin R?

A few options are available if you’re looking for alternatives to Humulin R. One alternative is the Mounjaro injectable solution, a fast-acting insulin medication used to treat diabetes. Another option is metformin, an oral tablet or solution used to control high blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

What alternatives are available for Novolin R?

Here’s a list of alternatives to Novolin R for managing diabetes:

  • Insulin Lispro
  • Insulin Glargine
  • Mounjaro (Tirzepatide)
  • Metformin
  • NovoLog (Insulin Aspart)
  • Humulin R
  • Januvia

Is novolin and humulin r the same?

Humulin R and Novolin R are short-acting insulins that contain the same active ingredient, insulin and are used to manage blood sugar levels in adults and children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

How long does Novolin R last?

Novolin R starts working 30 minutes after injection, and the greatest blood sugar-lowering effect is between 2.5 and 5 hours after the injection. Its effects last for 8 hours.

Is Humulin R insulin fast or slow?

Humulin R is a regular, short-acting insulin that falls between rapid (fast-acting) and intermediate-acting insulin. It starts working about 30 minutes after being taken.

How long is Humulin R good for?

Opened vials of Humulin R should be stored in the refrigerator or at room temperature up to 86°F (30°C) for up to 31 days. They should be kept away from heat and direct light. After 31 days, all opened vials, even if insulin remains, should be thrown away.

What is the generic for Humulin R?

Humulin R is a brand-name drug; no generic forms are currently available.

Can you buy Humulin R and Novolin R over the counter?

Humulin R is available both over the counter and by prescription, while Novolin R is available without a prescription.


Sandow, J., Landgraf, W., Becker, R., & Seipke, G. (2015). Equivalent recombinant human insulin preparations and their place in therapy. European Endocrinology, 11(1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5819055/

Novo Nordisk Inc. (2012). Highlights of prescribing information for Novolin R. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2012/019938s066lbl.pdf

Eli Lilly and Company. (2019). Humulin R prescribing information. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2019/018780s175s176lbl.pdf