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Drug vs. Drug

Humalog vs. Novolog: Differences, similarities, and which is better for you

Gerardo Sison medical writer headshot By | Updated on June 18, 2020

Drug overview & main differences | Conditions treated | Efficacy | Insurance coverage and cost comparison | Side effects | Drug interactions | Warnings | FAQ

Millions of Americans with diabetes use insulin regularly, whether it’s for Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, or gestational diabetes. Insulins like Humalog and Novolog are necessary to regulate blood sugar levels in those with diabetes. But what’s the difference between these insulin products?

Humalog and Novolog are rapid-acting insulins that work quickly and last for a short duration compared to other insulins. They can be administered before a meal to control blood glucose levels or continuously throughout the day with an insulin pump. Insulin works by increasing the uptake of sugar into the body’s cells for energy. Sugar (glucose) is vital for energy production and overall bodily functions.

Humalog and Novolog may work in similar ways. But they are not interchangeable. Meaning, one can’t be replaced for the other. This is because they have some differences in how they’re prescribed and used.

What are the main differences between Humalog and Novolog?

Humalog is a rapid-acting insulin analog that was FDA-approved in 1996. It’s identical to human insulin with a similar chemical structure. Humalog, also known by its generic name insulin lispro, is available as a solution for injection under the skin (subcutaneous).

Humalog insulin comes in 10 mL and 3 mL multi-dose vials as well as 3 mL cartridges and pre-filled pens (Humalog KwikPen, Humalog Tempo Pen, Humalog Junior KwikPen). All formulations of Humalog contain 100 units/mL (U-100) of insulin except for Humalog KwikPen, which also comes in a 200 units/mL (U-200) version.

Novolog is a rapid-acting insulin analog known by its generic name insulin aspart. It’s chemically similar to regular human insulin except it has aspartic acid instead of a proline amino acid in part of its DNA structure. Novolog was FDA approved in 2000.

Like Humalog, Novolog is available as a 10 mL multi-dose vial for patients or providers to draw up with their own syringe. Novolog also comes in a 3 mL cartridge (PenFill cartridges) and pre-filled pens (Novolog FlexPen, Novolog FlexTouch). These formulations contain 100 units/mL of insulin aspart.

Main differences between Humalog and Novolog
Humalog Novolog
Drug class Insulin Insulin
Brand/generic status Brand and generic version available Brand and generic version available
What is the generic name? Insulin lispro injection Insulin aspart injection
What form(s) does the drug come in? Solution for subcutaneous injection Solution for subcutaneous injection
What is the standard dosage? Insulin doses are highly variable and should be determined based on a person’s condition, diet, and lifestyle. Rapid-acting insulin is usually given 2 to 4 times daily before or after a meal in a dosage range of 0.5 to 1 unit/kg/day.
How long is the typical treatment? Diabetes is a progressive disease that often requires lifelong maintenance with insulin.
Who typically uses the medication? Adults with Type 2 diabetes
Adults and children aged 3 years and older with Type 1 diabetes
Adults with Type 2 diabetes
Adults and children aged 2 years and older with Type 1 diabetes

Conditions treated by Humalog and Novolog

Both Humalog and Novolog are brand-name types of insulin commonly prescribed to control blood sugar in people with diabetes. These rapid-acting insulins are approved to treat those with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Humalog and Novolog are also used off-label to treat gestational diabetes, or diabetes that occurs in pregnant women. Women who have risk factors for diabetes are more likely to experience gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Insulins like Humalog and Novolog are also used to treat diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication that can occur from high ketone levels in those with Type 1 diabetes—and, rarely, with Type 2 diabetes.

Condition Humalog Novolog
Type 1 diabetes Yes Yes
Type 2 diabetes Yes Yes
Gestational diabetes Off-label Off-label
Diabetic ketoacidosis Off-label Off-label

Is Humalog or Novolog more effective?

Humalog and Novolog provide fast-acting effects when administered correctly. Insulin should be given as an injection in the abdominal area, thighs, upper arms, or buttocks. Both Humalog and Novolog are equally effective for lowering blood sugar levels.

Although both insulins work quickly, Novolog works slightly faster than Humalog. Novolog can be injected within five to 10 minutes before eating a meal whereas Humalog should be injected within 15 minutes before a meal.

Compared to other types of insulin, rapid-acting insulins may be better options when used for controlling glucose before or after a meal. In a meta-analysis from Diabetes Therapy, researchers found that rapid-acting insulin was more effective as a mealtime insulin for Type 1 diabetes compared to regular insulin. Rapid-acting insulins were also found to improve HbA1c levels more effectively in people with Type 1 diabetes.

Whether you’re prescribed Humalog, Novolog, or another type of insulin will depend on your overall condition. Consult a healthcare provider for the best insulin for you.

Coverage and cost comparison of Humalog vs. Novolog

Humalog and Novolog are available in brand and generic forms. Some, but not all Medicare Part D plans will cover insulin except when it’s administered with an insulin pump. When insulin needs to be administered with an insulin pump, Medicare Part B may cover the cost of it. Check with your insurance plan’s formulary to see what’s covered and what your out-of-pocket cost may be.

Even if your insurance plan covers insulin, you may be able to save more with a SingleCare card. The price for generic Humalog can be as much as $300. With a SingleCare coupon, it is approximately $145. Similarly, a coupon for Novolog could reduce the price from $300 to around $150 for 10 ml vial. Keep in mind, insulin prices can vary between vials and cartridges.

  Humalog Novolog
Typically covered by insurance? May be covered; depends on the insurance plan May be covered; depends on the insurance plan
Typically covered by Medicare? May be covered; depends on the insurance plan May be covered; depends on the insurance plan
Standard dosage 10 mL vial (dosage varies) 10 mL vial (dosage varies)
Typical Medicare copay $318 $335
SingleCare cost $140-$150 $146-$155

Common side effects of Humalog vs. Novolog

The most common side effects of Humalog include headache, nausea, diarrhea, stomach ache (abdominal pain), sore throat (pharyngitis), runny nose (rhinitis), and muscle weakness (asthenia).

The most common side effects of Novolog include headache, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, rhinitis, chest pain, and sensory disturbances.

Other side effects of insulin may include local pain, burning, itchiness, or irritation around the site of injection. Most side effects are mild. However, more serious allergic reactions may occur in those who are sensitive to insulin ingredients.

  Humalog Novolog
Side effect Applicable? Frequency Applicable? Frequency
Headache Yes 24% Yes 12%
Nausea Yes 5% Yes 7%
Diarrhea Yes 7% Yes 5%
Stomach ache Yes 6% Yes 5%
Sore throat Yes 27% No N/A
Runny nose Yes 20% Yes 5%
Muscle weakness Yes 6% No N/A
Chest pain No N/A Yes 5%
Sensory disturbances No N/A Yes 9%

This may not be a complete list of adverse effects that can occur. Please refer to your doctor or healthcare provider to learn more.
Source: DailyMed (Humalog), DailyMed (Novolog)

Drug interactions of Humalog vs. Novolog

Humalog and Novolog insulin can interact with several different drugs. Antidiabetic agents, such as glipizide or glyburide, are sometimes used along with insulin to help control blood sugar levels. However, using these drugs with insulin can also increase the risk of dangerously low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia.

Corticosteroids like prednisone or dexamethasone can increase glucose levels in the blood. Therefore, taking these drugs may decrease the effects of insulin. Taking drugs like antipsychotics or diuretics can also decrease the effects of insulin and increase insulin resistance. Insulin dosages may need to be adjusted when taking these other medications.

Beta-blockers can alter the effects of insulin. Additionally, beta-blockers can mask the signs of hypoglycemia that can occur after taking an incorrect insulin dose. This could create a dangerous situation that needs to be monitored.

Tell your doctor about any medications you are taking to prevent the possibility of a drug interaction.

Drug Drug class Humalog Novolog
Glipizide
Glyburide
Nateglinide
Repaglinide
Antidiabetic agents Yes Yes
Prednisone
Prednisolone
Dexamethasone
Corticosteroids Yes Yes
Clozapine
Olanzapine
Atypical antipsychotics Yes Yes
Hydrochlorothiazide
Chlorthalidone
Diuretics Yes Yes
Propranolol
Nadolol
Labetalol
Beta-blockers Yes Yes

*Consult a healthcare professional for other drug interactions.

Warnings of Humalog and Novolog

There is always a risk of hypoglycemia when using insulins like Humalog or Novolog. Symptoms of low blood sugar may include nausea, hunger, confusion, and weakness. For this reason, it’s recommended to carry glucose tablets to help counteract this potentially life-threatening condition. Therapy with other medications should be carefully coordinated to ensure the right amount of insulin is being administered.

You should avoid using Humalog or Novolog if you have a known sensitivity to either of their active ingredients. Hypersensitivity reactions may include severe rash or trouble breathing (anaphylaxis).

Syringes, pre-filled pens, and cartridges should not be shared with other people who have diabetes. Using someone else’s insulin device may put you at a higher risk of contracting HIV.

Consult your healthcare provider for other precautions to take while using insulin.

Frequently asked questions about Humalog vs. Novolog

What is Humalog?

Humalog is a rapid-acting insulin analog used to control blood sugar in those with diabetes. It is FDA approved to treat Type 2 diabetes in adults and Type 1 diabetes in adults and children aged 3 years and older. Humalog is the brand name for insulin lispro.

What is Novolog?

Novolog is a rapid-acting insulin analog that can regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. It is FDA approved to treat Type 2 diabetes in adults and Type 1 diabetes in adults and children aged 2 years and older. Novolog is the brand name for insulin aspart.

Are Humalog and Novolog the same?

No, Humalog and Novolog are not the same. They have slightly different formulations, age restrictions, and costs associated with their use.

Is Humalog or Novolog better?

Humalog and Novolog are both effective for lowering blood glucose. However, Novolog works slightly faster than Humalog. Compared to long-acting insulins like Lantus (insulin glargine), rapid-acting insulins are more suitable for controlling blood sugar levels before and after a meal. Consult a healthcare provider for the best insulin for your condition.

Can I use Humalog or Novolog while pregnant?

According to the American Diabetes Association, insulin is the first line of therapy for controlling diabetes while pregnant. It has not been found to cross the placenta. Therefore, it’s deemed safe for use during pregnancy.

Can I use Humalog or Novolog with alcohol?

Alcohol should be avoided while using insulin. This is because alcohol can increase the blood sugar lowering effects of insulin and potentially cause hypoglycemia.

What is the difference between insulin lispro and insulin aspart?

Insulin lispro and insulin aspart are two generic forms of fast-acting insulin. However, they are chemically different with slightly different onsets of action. Insulin lispro works within 15 minutes while insulin aspart works within five to 10 minutes. One insulin may also be cheaper than the other depending on your insurance plan.

What insulin is comparable to NovoLog?

Novolog is comparable to other fast-acting insulins such as Humalog (insulin lispro) and Apidra (insulin glulisine). Because of their fast onset of action, Novolog, Humalog, and Apidra are often used as mealtime insulins. They take less than 20 minutes to start working and last for a total duration of approximately four hours.