Onset Peak and Duration of Action

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Onset, peak, and duration are three properties of insulin that are of clinical importance.

• Onset—when insulin first begins to act in the body

• Peak—when the insulin is exerting maximum action

• Duration—the length of time the insulin remains in effect

To meet the needs of those with diabetes mellitus, various insulin preparations have been developed to delay the onset and prolong the duration of action of insulin. When insulin is combined with protamine (a protein), the absorption of insulin from the injection site is slowed and the duration of action is prolonged. The addition of zinc also modifies the onset and duration of action of insulin. Insulin preparations are classified as rapid-acting, intermediate-acting, or long-acting. The Summary Drug Table: Insulin Preparations gives information concerning the onset, peak, and duration of various insulins.

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