Visit any pharmacy. The shelves
are filled with drugs. It seems for any
ailment, you've got your pick of
remedies. And new drugs coming out all
But for who depend on insulin, the
choices are dwindling. Today most drug stores carry only one type--Humulin, a
synthetic drug created in a lab. But some
diabetics are complaining to the government
that, with Humulin, they can't manage their
diabetes--they get sick.
"I know I was injecting it
right," says Lakeland, FL diabetic Mary
Ford. "I was taking it at the right
time. I just could not use it. It made me
deathly ill twice."
For three years, Ford has been
trying to warn the US government about
Humulin. She says while the insulin may be
great for most diabetics, it doesn't work
If it had worked for me I'd
be the first person to say it worked for me.
Great. I feel good on it. But it doesn't
work for me."
Eli Lilly and
Again, the new insulin is
synthetic. But Ford says the only insulin
that successfully allows her to manage her
blood sugar levels is the old fashioned
kind--the kind that comes from animals. She
stashes a supply of it away in a
refrigerator because Eli Lilly and Company,
the only American company producing insulin,
stopped making the beef beef/pork
insulin she's used for 30 years. It still
makes the pork insulin, but that doesn't
work well for Ford either.
"Never dreamed that this would
be happening to me," Mary tells
Investigative Reporter Glenn Selig, "or
that I would have to hoard insulin in my
home to survive."
She says she'd be dead if she
hadn't stocked up on the beef and beef/pork
insulin before the Eli Lilly stopped making
it. And she says government records back her
up. We checked with the Food
and Drug Administration. In just within
the first four months of this year, 16
diabetics have died and 91 diabetics
hospitalized--physicians and family members
say it's because while taking Humulin some
patients are unable to manage their
That's in addition to an earlier FOX
13 investigation that revealed from
September, 1999 to September, 2000 the FDA
received complaints from doctors and family
members about 92 people who died while
taking Humulin. More than 600 people claimed
to have been hospitalized.
It's not only diabetics in the US
making these claims. There are diabetics
worldwide complaining synthetic insulin
doesn't work for them. But in a couple of
those countries, Australia and the United
Kingdom for example, there are animal
insulins still being sold or manufactured.
But that's not the case in the US and Canada
where diabetics are being told they must
make the change to a synthetic insulin like
"The first time I went on
Humulin, my husband had to phone the
paramedics," says Colleen Fuller, a
diabetic in Vancouver, British Columbia.
For years, she took pork insulin.
Then her doctor tried to switch her to Eli
Lilly's Humulin. "I know if I would've
stayed on that insulin I know I would've
gone into a coma."
She's convinced because she says
her body reacted differently to Humulin than
it ever did using pork. She says she had no
warning that her blood sugar was plummeting.
She has since switched back to pork insulin
even though it's been hard for her to find a
pharmacy that sells it. She's worried some
day pork insulin won't be on the market at
"I'm going to have to fight to
make sure it's there in my future,"
Colleen tells Glenn, "if it's not I'm
not sure what I'm gonna do. But I'm gonna
fight to make sure it's available."
She's not alone in her struggle.
Other diabetics in Canada are joining her in
that fight. They're calling on the Canadian
government to launch an investigation.
Because like the FDA, Health Canada has also
received hundreds of complaints from
diabetics taking Humulin--upwards of 500.
"This is why we are asking for
a public inquiry with the adverse
events," says Dr. John Hunt, an
endocrinologist in Vancouver, "so that
we can get the real facts into the open
But in the US, the issue has not
attracted that type of national attention.
Eli Lilly, the largest producer of
insulin in the US and Canada, has responded
to our investigation by accusing FOX 13
Investigates of scaring the diabetic
community. Eli Lilly says its position has
not changed since our investigation
began--that everyone can switch to Humulin.
And if there is a problem, the company says
it has nothing to do with the drug; it's
because of patient error.
Tampa Bay pharmacy
Eli Lilly says it plans to continue
to produce pork insulin indefinitely. But
you'll have a hard time finding it. Out of
50 pharmacies we contacted in the Tampa Bay
area, only 13 said they had it in stock, 20
told us they didn't carry it, 16 pharmacies
said they stopped carrying it because they
thought it was discontinued.
Undeterred, Mary Ford and other
Americans are lobbying Congress and
complaining to the FDA they want the US
government to know how Eli Lilly's business
decision, and the government's inaction,
have affected their lives.
"They should not have the
control that they do over our lives,"
says Mary. "They should not. They have
a monopoly on that insulin and it's like
because we make it you'll use what we say
and that is wrong."
stash of insulin
She and other diabetics have
started an internet Petition urging
the US government to allow foreign companies
to sell animal insulin in the US. The
Petition has more than 500 signatures. Ford
says she wants the FDA investigated for
ignoring the reports of deaths and
hospitalizations. The FDA did not respond to
repeated phone calls requesting an interview
Mary says she needs the beef and
beef/pork insulin to live. But as long as
Humulin and pork are the only insulins sold
anywhere in America, she fears the day will
come that she may be forced to move to
"It's heartbreaking to me that
my husband served his country for 20 years
and that his wife can't get insulin in this
country that she needs to survive. That is
heartbreaking to me."
Wales, England based pharmaceutical company
still producing a variety of animal
insulins. Website contains important
information on importing this insulin into
the US and Canada.
Animal Insulin Petition
Click this link to sign an internet Petition
. The Petition seeks to get the US Congress
to make beef insulin legal in the US. Beef
insulin was the insulin of choice for 80
years. The Petition claims none of the
synthetics have worked as well to manage
Cochrane Consumer Network
Cochrane, based in Australia, reviews the
results of clinical trials of health care
treatments and interventions. Click this
link to read No Extra Benefit from Human
This study, supported by the Rockefeller
Foundation, New York, USA, concluded
"Human insulin is a useful insulin
formulation and many people with diabetes
can happily use it. However, a substantial
minority of people with diabetes feel safer,
have better hypoglycemia warning symptoms
with animal insulin and fewer abrupt
hypoglycemic episodes." Click this link
to read the Bellagio Report.
Insulin Dependent Diabetes
The Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust [IDDT]
is an international patient organization for
people who live with diabetes based in the
United Kingdom. In order to function without
any conflicts of interest, IDDT does not
accept any funding from the pharmaceutical
industry, unlike many other diabetes
organizations. Here you will find links and
studies regarding Humulin and other
Group, based in the US, advocates the need
for natural beef and pork insulins to cover
all phases of diabetes care, cure and
management. Includes links to studies and
articles on the subject.