The Current and Future Role of Insulin Therapy in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: A Narrative Review

Janet B. McGill, Irl B. Hirsch, Christopher G. Parkin, Grazia Aleppo, Carol J. Levy, James R. Gavin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Early initiation of intensive insulin therapy has been demonstrated to be effective in controlling glycemia and possibly preserving beta-cell function. Innovations in insulin formulations and delivery systems continue. However, we have seen an acceleration in the development of new classes of diabetes medications for individuals with type 2 diabetes and obesity, such as, for example, glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs). These formulations have been shown to confer significant benefits in achieving good glycemic control with reduced hypoglycemia risk, weight loss, and cardiorenal protection. Therefore, it is reasonable to question whether there is still a role for insulin therapy in the management of type 2 diabetes. However, there are clear limitations inherent to GLP-1 RA therapy, including high rates of suboptimal adherence and treatment discontinuation due to high cost and side effects, which diminish long-term efficacy, and supply issues. In addition, newer formulations have shown improvements in convenience and tolerability, and have been shown to be even more effective when used in conjunction with basal insulin. In this narrative review, we discuss current evidence that supports GLP-1 RA use in combination with insulin therapy and the potential pitfalls of reliance on GLP-1 RAs as a substitute for insulin therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1085-1098
Number of pages14
JournalDiabetes Therapy
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2024


  • Adherence
  • Discontinuation
  • GLP-1 RA
  • Glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonists
  • HbA1c
  • Insulin
  • Type 2 diabetes


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