Investigative Reporter
                   Glenn Selig

August 27, 2002


                    Humulin--synthetic insulin

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 the time
Mary Ford
        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 for her.

        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 Company


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 diabetes.

       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 Humulin.

Colleen Fuller
       "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 all.

       "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 about insulin."

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 survey
       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."

              Ford's personal 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 or comment.

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 another country.

      "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."

    FDA Importation Information
    Click this link to learn how to import beef  and pork insulins into the US.

    CP Pharmaceuticals
    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 diabetes.

    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 Insulin.

    Bellagio Report
    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 Trust International
    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 synthetic insulins.

    Diabetics International Foundation
    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.