Lantus and Levemir: What’s the Difference?
Lantus and Levemir have a lot in common. Both are basal insulin formulas, which means that they last for a long time in the body and act as background insulin, with a slow feed that mimics the constant low output of insulin produced by a healthy pancreas.
Both are insulin analogues, which means that their insulin molecules are analogous to human insulin, but engineered, or recombined, with slight differences that slow their absorption.
Lantus is a clear formula made with glargine, a genetically modified form of human insulin, dissolved in a special solution. Levemir is also a clear formula, but it contains dissolved detemir, a different form of genetically modified insulin.
Human insulin is made of two amino acid chains, called A and B, that have two disulfide bonds between them. In glargine, one amino acid has been switched out, and two extra amino acids have been added to one end of the B chain. The modifications make glargine soluble at an acidic pH, but much less soluble at the neutral pH that’s found in the body
To make Lantus, first the glargine is produced by a vat of E. coli bacteria. Then it’s purified and added to a watery solution containing a little zinc and some glycerol; a dash of hydrochloric acid is also added to make it acidic, bringing its pH down to about 4. At that degree of acidity, glargine completely dissolves into the watery solution, which is why the vial is clear.
After you inject it into your subcutaneous tissue, the acidic solution is neutralized by your body to a neutral pH. Because glargine is not soluble at a neutral pH, it precipitates out into a form that’s not soluble in subcutaneous fat, and there forms a relatively insoluble depot. From that pool, or depot, of precipitated glargine in the tissues, small amounts slowly move back into solution over time and then to the bloodstream.
Levemir is made with insulin detemir. Insulin determir is created by recombinant DNA technology just like glargine, but is produced by baker’s yeast instead of E.coli. It’s a clear solution that contains, in addition to the insulin detemir, some zinc, mannitol, other chemicals, and a bit of hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide to adjust its pH to neutral. Insulin detemir differs from human insulin in that one amino acid has been omitted from the end of the B chain, and a fatty acid has been attached to the spot instead.
Unlike glargine, detemir does not form a precipitate upon injection. Instead, detemir’s action is extended because its altered form makes it stick to itself in the subcutaneous depot (the injection site), so it’s slowly absorbed. Once the detemir molecules dissociate from each other, they readily enter the blood circulation, but there the added fatty acid binds to albumin.
More than 98 percent of detemir in the bloodstream is bound to albumin. With the albumin stuck to it, the insulin cannot function. Because it slowly dissociates from the albumin, it is available to the body over an extended period.
Whether Lantus is better than Levemir, or vice versa, is debatable. Levemir is generally supposed to be injected twice daily (although it’s approved by the FDA for once or twice daily) and Lantus once. According to Dr. Richard Bernstein, however, Lantus also usually works better if injected twice a day. The acidic nature of Lantus can sometimes cause stinging at the injection site, and both formulas cause allergic reactions in rare cases.
Most trials of the effectiveness of Lantus and Levemir have compared the two insulins to NPH insulin. NPH is a suspension of crystals in a solution, so it needs to be thoroughly shaken before use to distribute the crystals evenly. Some studies have failed to demonstrate any difference between in Lantus and NPH with regard to evenness of absorption.
Other studies have shown that compared to Lantus and Levemir, NPH has a variable absorption rate and a more pronounced peak. At night especially, hypoglycemia can occur if low glucose from exercise or alcohol consumption coincides with the NPH peak.
In some studies, Levemir has demonstrated less variable, steadier blood glucose-lowering effects compared to both NPH insulin and Lantus. Comparing Levemir with Lantus when used with a fast-acting insulin in patients with type 1 diabetes, Levemir had a lower risk of major hypoglycemia and nocturnal hypoglycemia, but the risk of hypoglycemia overall was comparable. The blood sugar control provided by the two insulins was similar as well.
8 thoughts on “Lantus and Levemir: What’s the Difference?”
I injected levimer and now I have a ball. is that normal. it itches to.
What do you mean you have a ball? Did the injection site swell up? Can you send [email protected] a photo? She will look into it for you and respond.
Yes. That is normal but I wonder how much you are injecting? I often inject 36-40 units and get a lump or ‘ball’ about 1cm diameter but it disappears after 30 minutes or so. No big deal.
I take LANTUS however I went to hospital for emergency and was given levemer no problem was told by dr. It would be ok to go back to lantus.
I have tried both Lantus and Levemir. Lantus by far works better with controlling my sugar but I have a mild headache and almost flu like symptoms when I take it. Levemir is almost like injecting water much thinner no headache no flu like symptoms but by far is not controlling my sugar as well as lantus. I am doing it once a day I have heard it works better to inject twice a day so I will try it any thoughts experiences with Levemir vs. Lantus?
My friend takes Lantus. She was sent home from the hospital with a pen of Levemir. Can she use it with the same units as ordered for the Lantus?
I ran out of Lantus 3 days ago due to lack of funds but i will be going to get it today however i do have Levemir and Humolog available can i use 1 of those until i get my Lantus refilled later on today
I was put on Lantus by the Military. I have taken it for about 15-20 years with little side effects. I have to be careful at night, because I take two injections a day. I take 30 units in the morning and 26 at night, but I have to be careful what I eat at night. If I eat things that don’t significantly raise my blood sugar, such as spaghetti and marinara sauce, my sugar overnight cant drop significantly around 70 or lower, so I have to be cognizant of what I eat at night, and how much Lantus I take. On the other hand, I was switched to Levemir by the VA, and I found, right away, that Levemir does not work as effectively for me as Lantus. I take 30 units in the morning, and my evening sugar reading is usually high, about 50 points higher than with Lantus. and the 30 Units I take at night, don’t seem to bring my sugar down overnight and I consistently have readings of 150-190 in the morning. I started, last night, to take 30 units in the evening, and later, another 10 units. This morning, when I got up, my glucose reading was 89, which makes me happy. So, it seems that Levemir is not quite as effective as Lantus. Once my Levemir vials are gone, I will be switching back to Lantus which seems to keep my glucose in much better control. My A1C under Lantus has consistently been about 7.0. My last A1C was 6.9 under Lantus. I have not taken this long term test using Levemir, but I suspect it would not be a good.