"INSULIN CRISIS PART 2" May 30, 2001


"There are people out there," complains diabetic Lucy Hartley, "who feel strange and feel like there something wrong and their doctors are telling them you're not trying hard enough."

Hartley, from North Carolina, is one of eight diabetics who came to the FOX 13 studios for an interview. They say they had trouble while taking an insulin called Humulin.

Says Erroll Hohrein from Colorado: "The Humulin insulin had no effect whatsoever in controlling my blood sugar and it made me deathly ill like I had a serious flu."

Others say it landed them in the hospital and near death. But the medical community hails the same drug these diabetics say caused them harm, as revolutionary. Diabetics like John Mudd from Tampa call it a lifesaver.

"Iím happy with it," says Mudd. "Itís made a great improvement in how I feel and the amount of energy I have."

Eli Lilly and Company manufactures Humulin. It has been the focus of a FOX 13 investigation for nearly two years.

"I will say to you that because of the report one of the things it has done is raise the questions," Florida Congresswoman Karen Thurman tells Investigative Reporter Glenn Selig during an interview from Washington, D.C.

The FOX 13 Investigates report prompted Rep. Thurman to write a letter asking the Food and Drug Administration to launch an "investigation" of its own into "possible serious side effects from... Humulin..."

Rep. Thurman tells Glenn: "If there are some serious side effects as has been reported than we should always take this very seriously."

Back in February we reported on one year's worth of the FDAís own records which showed more than 90 deaths and more than 600 hospitalizations to patients who were taking Humulin. We also told you about life-long diabetic Susan Mescher who died in the shower just weeks after switching to Humulin:

Says her sister-in-law from her home near Detroit, MI: "I can't think of anything else to blame it on but the insulin."

Eli Lilly says the very act of switching from one insulin to another offers a potential for problemsówhether itís from animal to Humulin, or even one type of animal to another type of animal. The company says after switching a person may experience hypoglycemia, extremely low blood sugar, which can lead to seizures, coma and sudden death. The same reactions that have happened to a small percentage of people taking animal insulins.

Eli Lilly has stopped producing two of its three animal insulins. But still manufactures pork. Most doctors and the American Diabetes Association recommend that diabetics change to Humulin. Ninety-nine percent of all insulin dependent diabetics are doing just that.

Eli Lilly says every diabetic can use Humulin. The company says if taken properly, and with careful monitoring, diabetics can take the drug without any problems. The company says itís better than any animal insulin because it mirrors a personís genetic makeup.

But Dr. John Hunt, a diabetes specialist in Vancouver, Canada disagrees.
"It's not better. Better for them business-wise but as an insulin it's not a better insulin. It's a different insulin."

Dr. Hunt says he's seen patients who simply cannot tolerate Humulin.

"I've collected people from all over B.C. (British Columbia, Canada) who came to me and say look I cannot handle this Human insulin, can't I go back to the animal insulin."

He believes some three to five percent of Canadian and American diabetics fall into that category. Dr. Hunt says with diabetes, remedies and dosages vary from person to person. So you might have three different diabetics on three totally different regimens and insulins.

"You can't say one insulin fits all, or insulin schedule fits all," says Dr. Hunt. "Because everyone is different and each person has their own particular requirements."

Which is why Dr. Hunt advocates choice. But here in America and in Canada there are few choices. Unlike in Europe where all the animal insulins are still readily available, Americans and Canadians who want those products need special import permits. Itís a process that's time consuming and costly.

"At the moment CP's beef insulin is described as an illicit drug," says CP Pharmaceuticals CEO Charles Savage of Wales, England. "We're not allowed to promote it in any."

Savageís company still makes the animal insulins some American and Canadian diabetics want but can't buy at the local pharmacy, and are forced to import:

"When you hear of the damage done to their lives by not having beef insulin available to them," says Savage. "Then that really tugs at the heartstrings and really affects one emotionally."

Savage says he's trying to get the FDA to allow his insulin to be sold in the United States. But that process could take years because of testing and government red tape. That comes as bad news to many diabetics:

Says Erroll Hohrein from Colorado: "We all know diabetics who are experiencing problems and all know diabetics who would be doing better if they had all the choices."

Now a member of Congress has gotten involved, urging the FDA to look into the matter. "We will stay on top of this to make sure we know what's going on," promises Florida Rep. Karen Thurman.

And so will FOX 13 Investigates.

One more thing: If youíre a diabetic, do not make any change to your regular regimen, stop using or switch insulins without being under the care of a doctor. And if you tape Humulin and youíre experiencing problems, Eli Lilly encourages you to contact your doctor who may be able to help you make the transition.

Related Links:

Insulin Crisis-Part 1

Rep. Karen Thurman-Florida
US House of Representatives

Insulin Dependent Diabetes Trust
Compassionate Use Project
Diabetes Interview Magazine
Diabetics International Forum
Insulin Forum-Switzerland

Eli Lilly and Company

American Diabetes Association

Food and Drug Administration
CP Pharmaceuticals-England

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