fight for access to animal insulin
(02/03/2003) (Link to CTV and to
their streaming video)
By Avis Favaro, CTV
News Staff reports:
A group of insulin
dependent diabetics is pleading for
help in guaranteeing them access to
animal-based insulin. They say the
company that has a monopoly on it is
planning to phase it out.
CTV News Staff
a group of insulin dependent diabetics will be
holding a news conference in Ottawa, pleading
for help in guaranteeing them access to animal
based insulin. They say the North American
company that has a monopoly on this kind of
insulin is planning to phase out its production.
a death sentence for me. ..for me and for many
others" said Shirley Tolley.
been a Type 1 diabetic for almost 39 years.
Thirteen years ago, her doctor switched her to
the newer form of insulin, a genetically
engineered copy of human insulin. But Shirley
says she experienced countless blackouts because
she was not able to properly control her blood
sugar on the synthetic insulin.
couple of times, my husband came home and I was
out cold on the floor. At one point when I was
getting up in the morning, I had this grey film.
I could not see. I thought I was going
blind," remembers Tolley.
she resumed the pork insulin, she began to feel
better. The blackouts stopped. Her vision
returned to normal
Koehnke also tried the human insulin and
suffered unpredictable fluctuations in her blood
sugar. She had to be revived by paramedics over
100 times in the 13 years she was on the human
on the pork now and doing exceptionally
well" Tanya said.
is our life blood, our life line. Without it, we
cannot live... without pork insulin I cannot
live," Koehnke says.
Eli Lilly, which holds the monopoly on pork
insulin in North America, no longer advertises
the animal-based insulin on its website. Company
officials also told CTV News: "At this
time, we have no plans to discontinue pork
insulin." But a support group for patients,
the Association for Diabetic Choice, says it has
documents showing Eli Lilly has already stopped
producing pork insulin
Task Force on Insulin meeting in Philadelphia on
June 25 of 2001, an Eli Lilly spokesperson,
Sylvia Lion, was noted as saying that "Eli
Lilly and company is no longer producing animal
insulin, but will still supply people until the
end of their stock."
confirmed in an email from Dr. Claude MBanya,
chair of the Task force. "Eli Lilly,"
he wrote to CTV, "will stop producing
animal insulin." He didn't say when the
company would cease production.
Fuller and other patients are starting to
stockpile supplies of pork insulin. They may end
up having to import their animal insulin from
Europe, where it's still being sold, for now.
But they will have to pay a premium of several
hundred dollars a month for the privilege of
being able to get the kind of insulin they say
keeps them healthy and alive.
am going to continue to have a good life, this
is the kind of insulin I have to use -- pork
insulin. I can't go back to synthetic
insulin," says Fuller, who lives in
think Eli Lilly's decision is based on marketing
and profits. It's more expensive, they say, to
produce insulin from animals, because of the
costs of raising, slaughtering and processing
Lilly has a marketing strategy, but we have
lives. That's what it boils down to." says
patients think their case raises moral
questions. Is it right for a company to stop
producing a drug patients need to survive? And
do government officials have any power to force
companies to make medications that may not have
a large enough profit margin?
Canada spokesperson Julia Hill says there's
little they can do.
we require a company to market a product in
Canada? No we can't. We live in a capitalist
society," says Hill. "These are
business decisions, we cannot force them to
change their business decisions."
ideal situation is to have more than one
manufacturer in the market. But we can't
approach companies," Hill says. "But
patients can approach other companies."
have spoken to Eli Lilly," Hill adds.
"We've had confirmation from the company
that they do not plan to withdraw their product.
What I would like is a submission from another
company so that there are more options for
we have any serious indication there was going
to be a shortage problems, we would take
immediate action to do anything we could to
expedite a submission."
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