A Conversation for Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus

Animal or Human (synthetic) insulin?

Post 1


I am not a doctor, nor am I diabetic. So I can't speak from first-hand experience but I have been married to a diabetic for 17 years. One topic I haven't seen discussed here (unless I've missed it) is that of Animal versus Human insulin.

My wife was diagnosed with diabetes 24 years ago after collapsing and being taken to hospital, where they insisted she was a drug addict and had overdosed! Eventually she was diagnosed as being diabetic and was prescribed pig insulin which she remained on until the advent of human (synthetic) insulin. Until then, virtually the only problem she had was a dramatic increase in weight on each occasion her doctor changed her insulin. But this extra weight gradually decreased and disappeared over some months so basically all was OK.

What happened to her while she used human insulin was quite different. Over a period of time my wife started to suffer a number of symptoms:

Less warning of hypos
A weight increase of about 2 stones which did not disappear
Extreme aching of the bones in her arms and hands
Constant tiredness and generally feeling "off it"
Inceasing difficulty controlling her blood sugar levels
Forgetting things

These symptoms did not manifest themselves at the same time, there did not seem to be any connection between them and it did not occur to either of us that her human insulin could be the root cause. She even saw a number of specialists about the pains in her arms because it was becoming debilitating. None of them could find anything wrong and, of course, no link was suspected with the insulin.

Then I happened upon the website of the Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust (IDDT). There I found an article which mentioned exactly the symptoms my wife was suffering and strongly linking them to the use of human insulin. (If anyone would like to read the article the wesbsite can be found at www.iddt.org)

We immediately went to see our GP armed with print-outs from the website and he referred my wife to our local diabetic clinic. There the nurse, without any delay, changed my wife's prescription back to animal insulin. The speed with which the nurse made her decision made us believe that this problem is not unknown in the profession. Unfortunately, I suspect the vested interests of the drug companies have kept the problem quiet - but that's a different conversation.

Now for the good news. Within a month of going back to animal insulin all my wife's symptoms (bar one) had disappeared and she was, and still is, like a new person. The only remaining problem is her weight which has not reduced. Enough said, I think.

If any readers are suffering the same problems and they are using human insulin, I strongly recommend that they see their GP and discuss changing their insulin. There is, however, one problem which comes back to the drug companies. There is currently a problem getting hold of animal insulin. The drug companies have concentrated all their resources on producing human insulin resulting in my wife having to wait between 2 and 6 weeks for her insulin. This could, of course, have been extremely serious but fortunately she had enough in the fridge to see her through. The result has been that my wife and doubtless countless other diabetics, re-ordered her insulin before she needed it in order to create a stockpile, probably increasing the supply problem. She hasn't had to re-order for some time so the situation may have improved but I do know that there is only one source of supply in the UK.

Perhaps human genetically modified insulin is a so-called medical advance which should be given much greater research and consideration. There may well be diabetics who cannot use animal insulin but it could be worth finding out.

Animal or Human (synthetic) insulin?

Post 2


Please note that Hypurin porcine insulins are reliably available on the NHS in Scotland

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Animal or Human (synthetic) insulin?

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