Getting Started with Insulin if You Have Type 2 Diabetes

This content originally appeared on diaTribe. Republished with permission.

By Frida Velcani

New to insulin? Learn about insulin dosing and timing and how often to test your blood sugar levels if you have type 2 diabetes.

If you have type 2 diabetes, it is likely that your treatment regimen will change over time as your needs change, and at some point, your healthcare professional may suggest that you start taking insulin. While this might feel scary, there are millions of others living with type 2 diabetes and taking insulin, so it’s definitely manageable.

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Why do some people with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin?

Type 2 diabetes can progress with time, which means that it gets more difficult for a person’s body to regulate glucose levels. The body’s many cells become less responsive to insulin (called increased insulin resistance), and the specific cells in the pancreas that produce insulin make less of it (called beta cell insufficiency). This is not necessarily related to a person’s diabetes management, and it is likely not possible to prevent.

For many people, adjusting lifestyle factors such as a reduced calorie diet and increased physical activity are key to keeping blood glucose levels stable and in a target range. Healthcare professionals may also recommend that people with type 2 diabetes take additional medications like metforminDPP-4 inhibitorsSGLT-2 inhibitors, or GLP-1 agonists to their treatment plan to improve glucose management, reduce A1C, lose weight, or support heart and kidney health.

When do people with type 2 diabetes start insulin?

After 10 to 20 years, many people with type 2 diabetes will begin insulin therapy, although every person’s journey with type 2 diabetes is different. This happens when lifestyle changes and medications aren’t keeping your glucose levels in your target range. It is important that you start treatment as early as possible to avoid persistent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which can lead to long-term health complications affecting your heart, kidneys, eyes, and other organs.

What are the different types of insulin?

The key to transitioning to insulin is knowing your options. Some people taking insulin need to use both a basal (long-acting) and a prandial (rapid-acting or “mealtime”) insulin each day, while others may only need to use basal insulin. Learn about your options here.

  • Basal (long-acting) insulins are designed to be injected once or twice daily to provide a constant background level of insulin throughout the day. Basal insulins help keep blood sugars at a consistent level when you are not eating and through the night but cannot cover carbohydrates (carbs) eaten for meals or snacks or glucose spikes after meals.
    • Some people use other medications, like GLP-1 agonists, to help cover mealtimes. GLP-1/basal combination treatments for people with type 2 diabetes combine basal insulin with GLP-1 agonist medication in one daily injection. This combination can effectively lower glucose levels while reducing weight gain and risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Learn more here.
  • Prandial (rapid-acting or “mealtime”) insulins are taken before mealtime and act quickly to cover carbohydrates eaten and bring down high sugar levels following meals. Ultra-rapid-acting prandial insulins can act even more rapidly in the body to bring down glucose levels. Rapid and ultra-rapid insulins are also taken to correct high glucose levels when they occur or are still persistent a few hours after a meal.
  • Basal and prandial insulins are both analog insulins, meaning they are slightly different in structure from the insulin naturally produced in the body. Analog insulins have certain characteristics that can be helpful for people with diabetes. Human insulins, on the other hand, were developed first and are identical to those produced by the human body. Human insulins are classified as regular (short-acting insulin) or NPH (intermediate-acting). These are generally cheaper than analog insulins and can be bought without a prescription at some pharmacies.

Although many people use both basal and prandial insulin – which is called multiple daily injections of insulin (MDI) and consists of one or two injections of basal insulin each day as well as prandial insulin at meals – people with type 2 diabetes who are beginning insulin therapy may only need basal insulin to manage their glucose levels. Basal insulin requires fewer injections and generally causes less hypoglycemia. For these reasons, many healthcare professionals recommend basal insulin when you first start insulin therapy.

How do I take and adjust my insulin doses?

It is important to learn the different methods of taking insulin and what kinds of insulin can be delivered through each method. There are several ways to take insulin – syringe, pen, pump, or inhalation – though injection with a syringe is currently the most common for people with type 2 diabetes. There are many apps that can help you calculate your insulin doses.

  • Insulin pens are considered easier and more convenient to use than a vial and syringe. There are different brands and models of insulin pens available. Smart pens are becoming increasingly common and can help people manage insulin dosing and tracking. They connect to your smartphone and help you remember when you took your last dose, how much insulin you took, and when to take your next one.
  • Insulin pumps are attached to your body and can be programmed to administer rapid-acting insulin throughout the day, to cover both basal and prandial insulin needs. When you need to take insulin for meals or to correct high glucose, calculators inside the pump can help determine the correct dosage after you’ve programmed them with your personal insulin pump settings.
  • Inhaled insulin is ultra-rapid acting insulin and can replace insulin used for mealtime and corrections of high glucose. It is taken through an inhaler and works similarly to injected prandial insulin. People with diabetes who do not want to inject prandial insulin might use this, but it’s not for people who only use basal insulin. The only approved inhaled insulin on the market is the ultra-rapid-acting mealtime insulin Afrezza.

Your insulin regimen should be tailored to fit your needs and lifestyle. Adjusting your basal insulin dosage and timing will require conversations and frequent follow-up with your healthcare team. When initiating insulin therapy, you may be advised to start with a low dose and increase the dose in small amounts once or twice a week, based on your fasting glucose levels. People with diabetes should aim to spend as much time as possible with glucose levels between 70-180 mg/dl. Insulin may be used alone or in combination with oral glucose-lowering medications, such as metformin, SGLT-2 inhibitors, or GLP-1 agonists.

One of the most important things to consider is the characteristics of different insulin types. To learn more, read “Introducing the Many Types of Insulin – Is There a Better Option for You?” and discuss with your healthcare team.

In order to dose insulin to cover meals or snacks, you have to take a few factors into consideration. Your healthcare team should help you determine what to consider when calculating an insulin dose. Prandial insulin doses will usually be adjusted based on:

  • Current blood sugar levels. You’ll aim for a “target” blood sugar, and you should know your “sensitivity” per unit of insulin to correct high blood sugar levels.
    • Insulin sensitivity factor (ISF) or correction factor:  how much one unit of insulin is expected to lower blood sugar. For example, if 1 unit of insulin will drop your blood sugar by 25 mg/dl, then your insulin sensitivity factor is 1:25. Your ISF may change throughout the day – for example, many people are more insulin resistant in the morning, which requires a stronger correction factor.
  • Carbohydrate intake. Insulin to carb ratios represent how many grams of carbohydrates are covered by one unit of insulin. You should calculate your carbohydrate consumptions for each meal.
    • Insulin to carbohydrate ratio:  the number of grams of carbs “covered” by one unit of insulin. For example, a 1:10 insulin to carbohydrate ratio means one unit of insulin will cover every 10 grams of carbohydrates that you eat. For a meal with 30 grams of carbohydrates, a bolus calculator will recommend three units of insulin.
  • Physical activity. Adjust insulin doses before, and possibly after, exercise – learn more about managing glucose levels during exercise here.

Learning to adjust your own insulin doses may be overwhelming at first, especially given the many factors that affect your glucose levels. Identifying patterns in your glucose levels throughout the day may help you optimize the timing and dosing of your insulin. Your healthcare professional, a certified diabetes care and education specialist, or insulin pump trainer (if you use a pump), can help guide you through this process. Do not adjust your insulin doses without first talking to your healthcare team.

How often should I test my blood sugar?

The frequency of testing will depend on your health status and activities during the day. Initially, you may be advised to check your blood glucose three to four times a day. As a starting point, check in with your healthcare team about how often to check your blood sugar. Many people test before meals, exercise, bedtime, and one to two hours after meals to ensure that they bolused their insulin correctly. Over time, your fasting, pre-meal, and post-meal blood glucose levels will help you figure out how to adjust your insulin doses.

Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) are particularly useful for tracking changes in glucose levels throughout the day. Some CGM devices also connect with an insulin pump to automatically adjust insulin delivery. After you start a treatment plan, the goal for most people is to spend as much time as possible in their target range. Talk with your healthcare professional about starting CGM and developing glucose targets.

What else do I need to know about taking insulin?

It’s common to experience minimal discomfort from needle injections or skin changes at the insulin injection site. You may also experience side effects of insulin therapy, which can include some weight gain and hypoglycemia. In some people, insulin increases appetite and stops the loss of glucose (and calories) in the urine, which can lead to weight gain. Hypoglycemia can occur if you are not taking the right amount of insulin to cover your carb intake, over-correcting high glucose levels, exercising, or consuming alcohol. Treating hypoglycemia also adds more calories to your daily intake and can further contribute to weight gain. Contact your healthcare professional to adjust your insulin dose if you are experiencing hypoglycemia, or call 911 if you experience more serious side effects, such as severe low blood sugar levels, serious allergic reactions, swelling, or shortness of breath.

Staying in contact with your healthcare team is the best way to make the transition to insulin therapy. Though the first few days or weeks will be challenging, with the right support, you’ll find a diabetes care plan that works for you.

If you were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, check out more resources here.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

What to Do If You Need Insulin Right Now

This content originally appeared on Beyond Type 1. Republished with permission.

By Lala Jackson

What to Do If You Have No Insulin at All

Go to the emergency room. Under US law (The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act), the emergency room cannot turn you down in a life-threatening emergency if you do not have insurance or the ability to pay.

If Emergency Room staff is telling you they cannot treat you, stay put. Be clear that you are in a life-threatening emergency because you have type 1 diabetes (T1D) but do not have insulin. Do not leave. Please note that urgent care centers are not required to abide by the same laws.

Once you are stabilized and before you leave the hospital, hospital staff is required to meet with you to make sure you understand that you are leaving the hospital of your own accord. At this time, let the hospital staff person know about any financial situation you are in. Some hospitals are aligned with charities that can help you pay. Other hospitals offer payment plans based on your situation. No matter your financial situation, know that your life is the most important thing.

What to Do If You Have Some Insulin, But Are About to Run Out

Utilize Kevin’s Law

If you have an existing prescription at your pharmacy, but have not been able to get ahold of your healthcare provider to renew the prescription, you may be able to take advantage of Kevin’s Law. Kevin’s Law was named for a man with T1D who passed away after not being able to access his insulin prescription over the New Year’s holiday. Under the law, pharmacists are able to provide an emergency refill of insulin in certain states, without the authorization of a physician to renew the prescription. Rules around the law vary from state to state and not all states have the law in place. Kevin’s Law only applies to those who have an existing prescription and, depending on where you live, your insurance may or may not cover the refill. Learn more about Kevin’s Law, including whether or not your state has it, here. Please note, your pharmacist may not know the law by name, or know that the law exists. If you are in a state with Kevin’s Law and working with a pharmacist who is unaware, stay put and ask to speak to someone else in the pharmacy.

Ask Your Physician for Samples

While this is not a long-term access option, your care provider may be able to provide you with a few vials/pens for free, and bringing your HCP into the access conversation means that they can help direct you to other options that might be available to you, like local community health centers with insulin available.

Utilize Patient Assistance Programs – Standard out of Pocket Cost $0

  • If you take Lilly insulin (Humalog, Basaglar) call the Lilly Diabetes Solutions Call Center Helpline at 1-833-808-1234
    for personalized assistance. You may be eligible for free insulin through LillyCares.
  • If you take Novo Nordisk insulin (Fiasp, NovoLog, NovoRapid, Levemir, Tresiba) and demonstrate immediate need or risk of rationing, you can receive a free, one-time, immediate supply of up to three vials or two packs of pens by calling 844-NOVO4ME (844-668-6463) or by visiting NovoCare.com
  • If you take Sanofi insulin (Admelog, Lantus, Toujeo): the Patient Connection Program provides Sanofi insulins to those who qualify, which is limited to those with no private insurance and who do not qualify for federal insurance programs and who are at or below 250% of the federal poverty level – with a few exceptions.

Utilize CoPay Cards – Standard out of Pocket Cost $35 – $99 per Month

Copay cards that reduce the out-of-pocket cost you pay at the pharmacy exist for most types of insulin. Some copay cards can be emailed to you within 24 hours. Currently, copay programs exist for:

  • Lilly, capping copays at $35 per month for those with no insurance or with commercial insurance
  • Novo Nordisk, capping copays at $99 for those with no insurance or with commercial insurance
  • Sanofi, capping copays at $99 for those without prescription medication insurance
  • Mannkind, capping copays at $15 for some of those with commercial insurance

Unfortunately, copay cards are typically not available for those insured through Medicaid or Medicare. Use the tool from the Partnership for Prescription Assistance to search in one place for discount programs and copay cards you qualify for here. Please be aware that you will need to search by brand name (i.e. Humalog, Novolog), not just “insulin.”

Get R & NPH Human Insulins – Standard out of Pocket Cost $25-$40 per Vial

R (Regular) and N (NPH) human insulins are available over-the-counter in 49 states and cost much less ($25-$40 per vial at Walmart) than analog insulins such Novolog, Humalog, Lantus, or Basaglar. They also work differently than analog insulins – they start working and peak at different times – but in an emergency situation can be a resource. Speak with the pharmacist or your healthcare provider if possible before changing your regimen and keep a very close eye on your blood sugar levels while using R & N insulin.

Research Available Biosimilar (Generic) Insulins

The biosimilar insulin market is changing rapidly as the FDA adopts new regulatory pathways to more efficiently approve interchangeable insulins that may be available for a lower price. Ask your healthcare provider for the most up-to-date options for you. A few options available are:

  • A generic version of Humalog — Insulin Lispro — is available at pharmacies in the U.S. for $137.35 per vial and $265.20 for a package of five KwikPens (50% the price of Humalog.) If you have a prescription for Humalog, you do not need an additional prescription for Lispro; your pharmacist will be able to substitute the cheaper option. Insulin Lispro is not currently covered by insurance.
  • Authorized generic versions of NovoLog and NovoLog Mix at 50% list price are stocked at the wholesaler level. People can order them at the pharmacy and they’ll be available for pick up in 1-3 business days

If you have enough insulin to last you a few days, but need to figure out where to get a more reliable, consistent supply, visit our Get Insulin page to find further resources.

Source: diabetesdaily.com

Get Afrezza for as Low as $4 a Day

This content originally appeared on TCOYD: Taking Control of Your Diabetes. Republished with permission.Innovative Cash Program Afrezza is a rapid-acting inhaled insulin indicated to improve glycemic control in adult patients with diabetes mellitus. MannKind Corporation, makers of Afrezza, just announced a direct purchase program to help those with diabetes obtain this medication for as little as $4 […]
Source: diabetesdaily.com

Life with Inhalable Insulin and Type 1 Diabetes

This content originally appeared on Arden’s Day and the Juicebox Podcast. Republished with permission.Mike Joyce was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age nine. Twenty-two years later, he’s doing terrific! Mike is forging his own path and using the inhalable insulin called Afrezza. Learn more about his story by listening to the podcasat.
Source: diabetesdaily.com

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