GM Vs animal insulin
Choices – The Evidence
Evidence from people with diabetes
A little bit of history
Action and duration times of animal and GM ‘human’ insulins
Hypoglycaemia and loss of warnings
‘Dead in Bed Syndrome’
The concerns of patients are justified
Availability of animal insulins in the UK
Changing your insulin
What to do if your consultant refuses to change your insulin
Availability of animal insulin if admitted to hospital
Frequently asked questions
Allergic reactions to insulin
- GM synthetic ‘human’ insulin causes side effects for some people that largely disappear with a change to natural animal insulin. These problems do not just occur in people that have previously used animal insulin, however this is the group who are able to make comparisons.
- No large scale, long-term trials comparing GM ‘human’ and animal insulins have ever been carried out. The research that has been carried out has largely been in the laboratory situation and/or using small numbers of people, so the validity of this research is questionable.
- The link between GM ‘human’ insulin, hypoglycaemia, loss of warning symptoms and unexplained, sudden death or ‘dead in bed syndrome’, has not been satisfactorily explained. However small the number of deaths, any avoidable death is unacceptable and this issue needs further investigation. Equally any increase in frequency or severity of hypoglycaemia is unacceptable.
- The first research in 1980 using GM ‘human’ insulin, by Professor Harry Keen, involved 17 healthy non-diabetic men and in 1982 ‘human’ insulin was given a licence for general use. This is a remarkably short time for a new drug, especially as ‘human’ insulin was the first ever genetically engineered drug to be used on people.
- There is no evidence to show that synthetic ‘human’ insulin has any advantages over natural animal insulins. No formal post-marketing research was ever carried out despite the fact that ‘human’ insulin was the first genetically produced drug to ever be used on people. For this reason alone, the experiences of patients using it should have been, and still are, of vital importance in the development and use of other genetically produced drugs.
- GM ‘human’ insulin has been shown to be more aggressive with a faster action and a higher peak of action than the equivalent porcine or bovine insulins.
- The Cochrane Review, July 2002 and updated in 2004, comparing ‘human’ and animal insulin showed that there is no evidence that ‘human’ insulin is superior to animal insulin. It also showed that the majority of the research carried out was ‘methodologically poor’ and that many patient-oriented outcomes like health-related quality of life or diabetes complications and mortality rates were never investigated in high quality randomised clinical trials. So the introduction of synthetic ‘human’ insulin was never backed up by sufficient proof of advantages and safety. In the years since its introduction, this proof has never been obtained because the research has not been carried out. View the Cochrane Review