Humulin R U-500 (insulin human) is a prescription brand-name medication. It’s approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help manage blood sugar in certain adults and children who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They must need more than 200 units of insulin per day.

Diabetes is a condition in which your body stops reacting to or creating insulin. One of insulin’s jobs is to move sugar from your blood into your cells, which use sugar for energy. With too little insulin, blood sugar levels rise.

If you and your doctor think that Humulin R U-500 is helping manage your blood sugar, you’ll likely use the drug long term.

Here are the basics on Humulin R U-500:

  • Active ingredient: insulin human, which is a biologic
  • Drug class: intermediate/long-acting insulin
  • Drug forms: liquid solution given as a subcutaneous injection using either:
    • single-use KwikPens
    • multiple-dose vials with U-500 insulin syringes
  • Available as biosimilar: no

It’s important to note that two strengths of Humulin R are available: U-100 and U-500. This article focuses only on U-500.

Read on to learn more about Humulin R U-500 and its use in treating diabetes. You can also refer to this article for a comprehensive look at Humulin R U-500.

When you eat food, your body turns it into sugar to use as energy. To do this, your system needs insulin, which is a hormone your body makes naturally. Insulin helps move sugar from your blood into your cells.

With diabetes, your body either stops reacting to or creating insulin. This means that sugar stays in your blood instead of going into your cells, resulting in a high level of blood sugar. Over time, high blood sugar can damage organs, including the eyes, heart, and kidneys. High blood sugar can also harm your nerves. This can cause complications, such as a vision problem called diabetic retinopathy.

Symptoms of diabetes

Besides high blood sugar, symptoms of diabetes may vary from person to person. These symptoms are typically caused by high blood sugar levels.

The most common symptoms of diabetes include:

  • increased hunger
  • increased thirst
  • fatigue (lack of energy)
  • urinating more frequently than usual, especially at night
  • blurry vision

There are several types of diabetes. Humulin R U-500 is used to treat type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is most common in children, including teenagers, but it may develop at any age. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually appear suddenly and dramatically.

The most common type of diabetes is type 2. It’s most often seen in adults, but it can occur at any age. Typically, symptoms of type 2 diabetes develop slowly over time. However, some people with early type 2 diabetes may not have symptoms.

Who Humulin R U-500 is prescribed for

Humulin R U-500 is approved to help manage blood sugar in certain adults and children who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They must need more than 200 units of insulin per day.

It’s important to note that Humulin R U-500 has limitations of use. It’s not known whether the drug is safe and effective to use with other insulins. It’s also not known whether Humulin R U-500 is safe and effective when given as a continuous subcutaneous infusion. This is an injection given just under the skin over a period of time. (Humulin R U-500 is approved to be given only as a subcutaneous injection, which is an injection given just under the skin.)

Humulin R U-500 is approved to help manage blood sugar in certain adults and children who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They must need more than 200 units of insulin per day.

Diabetes explained

When you eat food, your body turns it into glucose (sugar) to use as energy. To do this, you need insulin, which is a hormone your body makes naturally. Insulin helps move sugar from your blood into your cells. Whenever you digest food, your system releases insulin.

Normally, insulin is made and released from a gland called the pancreas. With type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can’t make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, cells no longer respond to insulin as usual. This is known as insulin resistance. If type 2 diabetes isn’t treated, the pancreas may eventually stop making insulin.

When your body stops reacting to or creating insulin, your cells can’t absorb sugar from your blood. This can cause your blood sugar level to rise. If the level becomes too high and isn’t treated, the sugar can damage some organs and nerves. And your body may not have the energy that it needs if it can’t use the sugar from your blood.

The way Humulin R U-500 works

The active drug in Humulin R U-500 is insulin human. This is a copy of the insulin that your pancreas naturally makes. When you inject your dose, your body uses insulin human exactly how it would use natural insulin. Insulin human moves sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells, which use the sugar for energy.

Recombinant DNA technology is used to make insulin human. This involves combining genetic material to make the insulin.

Humulin R U-500 and children

Humulin R U-500 is approved to help manage blood sugar levels in certain children with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They must need more than 200 units of insulin per day.

Clinical studies have found Humulin R U-500 to be safe and effective for managing blood sugar levels in certain people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They must need more than 200 units of insulin per day.

In addition, American Diabetes Association guidelines recommend insulin human as a potential treatment for managing blood sugar in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Insulin human is the active drug in Humulin R U-500.

You should use Humulin R U-500 exactly how your doctor instructs you to.

Humulin R U-500 comes as a liquid solution. It’s given as a subcutaneous injection using either:

  • single-use KwikPens
  • multiple-dose vials with U-500 insulin syringes

Whether you use KwikPens or vials is a decision you and your doctor can discuss. The drug works the same way with both forms. Some people may find one form more convenient or easier to use than the other. And some insurance plans may cover one form but not the other.

Dosage

It’s important to note that there are two strengths of Humulin R available: U-100 and U-500. This article focuses only on U-500.

You’ll usually inject your dose of Humulin R U-500 30 minutes before a meal. Other than that, there aren’t specific dosage recommendations from the drug’s manufacturer.

Your doctor will personalize your dosage, depending on your blood sugar levels, blood sugar goals, and insulin needs. Whether you’re using other diabetes medications as part of your treatment plan can also affect your Humulin R U-500 dosage.

During treatment, your dosage of Humulin R U-500 may need to be adjusted. Certain factors can affect your blood sugar levels and your insulin needs. These factors can include:

  • changes in your diet or activity levels
  • increased stress
  • becoming sick
  • gaining or losing weight

You and your doctor should closely monitor your blood sugar levels while you’re using Humulin R U-500. (Your doctor or pharmacist should show you how to check your blood sugar at home). This helps them adjust your dosage when necessary.

How to use

Here’s some information about using Humulin R U-500 KwikPens and vials.

KwikPens

To use a single-dose KwikPen, you’ll need pen needles. You can get these when you pick up your prescription of Humulin R U-500 KwikPens. A needle attaches to the KwikPen so you can inject the medication. Your doctor or pharmacist will show you how to give yourself injections using the KwikPen.

You can also find an illustrated guide on using a KwikPen here. In addition, the drug’s manufacturer has a video showing how to use the device.

If you have any questions about using a KwikPen, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Vials

With Humulin R U-500 multiple-dose vials, you use a syringe to draw up the dose your doctor prescribes. It’s important that you use only U-500 insulin syringes. These syringes are specifically made for use with Humulin R U-500 vials. Other syringes won’t measure your doses correctly. You’ll also need to attach needles to the syringe.

You can get the syringes and needles when you pick up your prescription of Humulin R U-500 vials.

Your doctor or pharmacist will show you how to draw your doses from the vial and give yourself injections.

You can also find an illustrated guide on using U-500 vials and syringes here. In addition, the drug’s manufacturer has a video showing how to use them. Click on the “U-500 Vial and Syringe” tab.

If you have any questions about using a KwikPen, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Where to inject

Humulin R U-500 is given as a subcutaneous injection. This is an injection given just beneath your skin. You should inject Humulin R U-500 into the following areas only:

  • abdomen (belly)
  • buttocks
  • thighs
  • upper arms

You should vary the injection sites. This means using a different area for each injection. Doing so can help you avoid injection site reactions. (For more information, see “Humulin R U-500 side effects” below).

It’s important not to inject Humulin R U-500 directly into a vein or muscle. This could cause side effects, such as changes in your blood sugar levels. It could also cause your body to not absorb the drug.

How often to use

How often you use Humulin R U-500 depends on the dose your doctor prescribes for you and how often they advise you to have the injections. This will vary from person to person.

If you and your doctor believe that the drug is working to help manage your blood sugar levels, you’ll likely use Humulin R U-500 long term.

The use of Humulin R U-500 for type 1 or type 2 diabetes (its only approved use) may cause side effects that are mild or serious. The lists below include some of the main side effects that have been reported with Humulin R U-500 use. For information on other potential side effects of the drug, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. You can also see our article on Humulin R or refer to Humulin R U-500’s patient package insert.

Note: After the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves a medication, it tracks side effects of the drug. If you develop a side effect while using Humulin R U-500 and would like to inform the FDA, visit MedWatch.

Mild side effects

Mild side effects of Humulin R U-500 can include:

  • injection site reactions, such as swelling and pain in the area where you inject your dose
  • lipodystrophy (skin lesions or thickening at the site where you inject your dose)
  • itching
  • rash

These side effects of Humulin R U-500 may be temporary, lasting a few days or weeks. But if they last for a longer time, or if they bother you or become severe, it’s important to talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

Serious side effects

Although rare, Humulin R U-500 can cause serious side effects. These serious side effects and their symptoms can include:

Call your doctor right away if you develop serious side effects while using Humulin R U-500. If the side effects seem life threatening, or you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.

Before you use Humulin R U-500, there’s some important information to keep in mind. The drug may not be a safe option for you if you have certain medical conditions or other factors that affect your health. Some of these are mentioned below.

If any of the following medical conditions or other health factors are relevant to you, talk with your doctor before using Humulin R U-500:

  • if you have heart failure and use a type of diabetes medication called a thiazolidinedione, such as rosiglitazone (Avandia) or pioglitazone (Actos)
  • if you take other medications (especially other medications to treat diabetes), over-the-counter medications, supplements, herbs, or vitamins
  • if you have liver or kidney problems
  • if you’re pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant
  • if you’re breastfeeding or thinking of breastfeeding
  • if you’ve had an allergic reaction to Humulin R U-500 or any of its ingredients

How much Humulin R U-500 costs is based on several factors. These can include your prescribed treatment regimen, the insurance plan you have, the pharmacy you use, and your location. If you use the KwikPen form of Humulin R U-500, you may also need to buy pen needles. And if you use the vial form of the drug, you may also need to buy U-500 insulin syringes and needles. For estimates of how much Humulin R U-500 costs, see GoodRx.com.

Humulin R U-500 is a brand-name medication that isn’t available as a biosimilar. Brand-name drugs usually cost more than biosimilars.

Now that you’ve learned about Humulin R U-500, you may still have some questions. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist, who can advise you on whether Humulin R U-500 might be right for you.

Here are some other helpful references for:

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.