Ken E. Tamblyn's
view of himself as a "picture
perfect" diabetic changed in late 1997:
At the urging of
his pharmacist, the Phoenix real estate
appraiser switched from beef-pork insulin to
biosynthetic human insulin.
In the next six
weeks, he twice slipped into a diabetic coma
while on the couch at home.
tracking the blood-sugar levels and taking
higher doses of the new insulin, he couldn't
control his blood-sugar level. And he found
his normally upbeat mood turning sullen.
Headed for an
appraisal on an October morning last year,
Tamblyn suffered a low blood sugar attack
while driving. He made it to a parking lot,
lapsed into a coma until early evening, then
groggily began driving home.
"I remember it
being just being a bad dream," he said.
Driving a Volkswagen Beetle, Tamblyn
side-swiped other cars.
"I was driving
like a maniac," he said.
Five police cars
finally got Tamblyn to stop, then handcuffed
him and took him to jail.
Tamblyn, 39, had a
perfect driving record until then. He now
faces multiple charges, including
hit-and-run, resisting arrest and speeding,
said his lawyer, Dan Treon.
prosecutor refuses to believe a diabetic
attack caused the incident, and has pressed
for a trial.
Tamblyn switched back to beef-pork insulin.
"I've been fine ever since," he
said. "It's like a miracle
But now he doesn't
know where to find affordable supplies of
the animal insulin he needs.
In 1992, Linda
Vernier followed conventional advice and
switched from beef-pork to biosynthetic
It began in what
the Placentia, Calif., high school teacher
calls her 14 month nightmare.
Until then, the
43-year-old was a self-described model
diabetic, exercising regularly, eating right
and keeping notes of it all.
But on the new
human insulin, her blood-sugar levels swung
wildly, she passed out once in class and she
had to wake up every two hours at night to
check her blood-sugar.
"It was the
hardest thing I ever did to try to stay
alive," she said. In desperation, she
went back on beef-pork insulin, and
"within 24 hours I felt back under
Vernier said her
1994 letter to insulin maker Eli Lilly and
Co., detailing her nightmare, went
Her case led to the
creation of a web site,
compassionateuse.com, that tells her plight.
Friend William Welty, who runs a bible
translation foundation, oversees the web
page, which has become a clearing house for
information on human and animal insulin.
Two weeks ago,
Vernier received her first shipment of
all-beef insulin from a company in England.
She's unsure whether it will work as well as
Iletin beef-pork mix.
CHERYL D. SMITH
Three years after
biosynthetic human insulin came on the
market in 1986, Cheryl D. Smith began using
on the advice of her doctor.
The change from
animal insulin, which she'd used since 1956,
quickly went awry.
Smith, then a
temporary worker at a Massachusetts
telephone company, began passing out on the
terrible," she said. "I could not
control my sugar, and I'm pretty fastidious
about how I control myself."
After six months,
she returned to animal insulin and her
control improved. A fast-acting human
insulin she used for a brief period in 1996,
also caused her blood-sugar to drop without
Now a nurse for the
Nursing Center at the Amherst (Mass.)
Council on aging, Smith, 47, councils
elderly diabetics and others.
She considers the
problems some people seem to suffer using
biosynthetic human insulin "a big issue
in diabetic treatment. And it's been
suppressed for some reason."
She hopes to import
insulin to replace the Iletin 1 that she
soon won't be able to buy.
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