A new once-daily basal insulin for adult patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes is available in the UK as a new treatment option.

Insulin degludec (Tresiba) can be administered at any time of the day and it is the first insulin to offer people with diabetes the flexibility in the timing of insulin administration, on occasions when administration at the same time of day is not possible. A minimum of eight hours between injections should always be ensured.

Insulin degludec effectively reduces blood glucose levels in patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes while significantly reducing the risk of nocturnal hypoglycaemia compared with the most commonly prescribed basal insulin in the UK.

A recent study found that there was no significant difference in the rate of confirmed overall hypoglycaemic episodes for insulin degludec versus insulin glargine in patients with type 1 diabetes or for insulin naïve patients with type 2 diabetes.

Professor Richard Holt, Professor in Diabetes and Endocrinology at the University of Southampton, said: "With our current insulin treatments, it is important for people with diabetes to take their long-acting insulin at around the same time each day. However, the pharmacokinetics of insulin degludec mean that, on occasions when this is not possible, people with diabetes can alter the time they take their insulin without compromising their diabetes control or putting themselves at increased risk of hypoglycaemia. Good control of diabetes is essential to reduce the risk of long-term complications, so flexibility, when needed, is important."

Hypoglycaemic episodes are one of the most common side effects of insulin treatment, and although insulin degludec significantly reduces nocturnal hypoglycaemia, hypoglycaemia is still the most frequent side effect. Of particular concern is the risk of nocturnal hypoglycaemia; often when the patient is sleeping and therefore less aware of the onset of symptoms.

In 2010/11, the estimated UK cost for severe hypoglycaemia was £30.4 million and for moderate hypoglycaemia £41.8 million. Each severe hypoglycaemic episode involving hospitalisation, costs the NHS an estimated £2,153 per person. Almost 50% of severe hypoglycaemic episodes occur at night and the most severe night-time episodes can be fatal if left untreated.