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Do You Prefer Your Insulin Genetically Modified or Natural?

Friday, December 07, 2007 by: Allie Beatty
Tags: insulin, genetic modification, diabetes drugs

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(NewsTarget) It's an interesting question and if you began insulin treatment in the last 20 years, it's likely that your doctor didn't ask, "do you prefer genetically modified insulin or natural insulin?".  For Pete's sake, even restaurants ask if you want bottled or tap water. When you're stabbing the hormone into your body, without debate, there should be a choice! 

Animal insulins (insulin derived from animals) have suspiciously vanished from the shelves of pharmacies in the last few years. In 1997, an Eli Lilly media relations representative informed Scott King, of Diabetes Health Magazine, that only 300,000 insulin users were on animal insulins. By 2006, the last year of animal insulin production for Eli Lilly, supply side forced the demand to shrink to less than 1%. In less than 10 years, the insulin manufacturers were able to coerce doctors into forcing patients off of natural insulin and onto genetically modified insulins by the looming promise of animal insulin extinction.

Since the introduction of insulin in 1923 until the debut of genetically modified human insulin in 1983, animal insulins were graduating to higher purity each year until the apex of nearly 100% purity in 1970 (Novo technology). Animal insulins were the closest thing to human insulin. This had a therapeutic advantage because the antibodies created to attack animal insulins did not attack insulin the human body could endogenously secrete.

Many people with diabetes who were on animal insulins before transitioning to genetically modified insulin could actually obtain a C-peptide reading. Often doctors check C-peptide with a fasting blood sugar or hemoglobin A1c. This is the wrong way to check for beta cell efficiency. In order to accurately check your beta cell function, you must get your body to respond to a glucose load.  This simple test, preformed properly, proves that the type of insulin used to treat diabetes can make the difference in helping beta cells regenerate or hindering them from recovery. Hint: The average honeymoon period has decreased since the introduction of genetically modified insulins!  

Eli Lilly warned doctors they would discontinue production of animal insulins after more than 80 years in the business. The Indianapolis drug maker said the decision was prompted by shrinking demand, rising costs and the fast-growing use of biosynthetic human insulin; which it calls medically superior and just as safe. The switchover to the production of this new insulin, according to them, was due to the shrinking of costs in the newly approved technology of recombinant DNA and because using E. coli to produce insulin that is cheaper to make and patent-profitable (without proof of supremacy in safety or efficacy) is the only way to go. This is simply a veneer of pharmaceutical marketing without peer-review.

The declaration of medical superiority and safety was absolutely unproven in 1983 and continues to be unproven today. This alleged shrinking demand was due to the companies warning of their decisions to discontinue production of the natural insulins. How many pharmaceutical sales reps were peddling genetically modified human insulin over animal-insulins throughout the 80s? Tally the count. I can see it now, a million-man-army dispatched with medals gleaming asking me to try biosynthetic human insulin!

The story that drug reps told doctors with reckless abandon was, "It's pure human insulin. It's what we're born with, what nature intended". This is not even half right. Biologically-made natural insulin is a 3-dimensional molecule with an exact spatial dimension. Human-engineered lab creations link two strands of amino acid sequences together with 2 disulfide bridges - these are not guaranteed to be biologically equivalent.  Without C-peptide, there is reduced protection from hypoglycemia unawareness. Without C-peptide there is reduced protection from diabetes complications. If nature intended for E.coli or yeasts to be the saving grace for cheap insulin manufacturing, why didn't Nature put them in our pancreas to make insulin instead of islets? According to Dr. John Holcombe, a Lilly research physician, "It's just better. There's no turning back."  Way to compromise, boys!

To this day, genetically modified insulin is manufactured by E.coli or yeasts, depending on where you get your GM insulin. Making insulin from bacteria inherently causes it to have less liphphilic (fat-loving) tendencies than true human insulin. The insulin is absorbed into the muscles faster than into the brain. The brain perceives this lack of glucose availability as relative hypoglycemia. In response, the body continues to exhibit the symptoms of diabetes; and usually a few new inflammatory responses like asthma, Celiac Disease and a number of other inflammatory responses to genetically modified insulins made by E..coli and yeasts.

Eli Lilly's god-like arrogance has put people living with diabetes at risk for an increased rate of complications, higher costs to treat their condition, and less of a fighting chance to recover.  Overall, this impairs the pursuit of happiness and the quality of life for those living with diabetes. We, the patients, have a child-like trust in our doctors. We believe their choice in how they practice medicine comes from their responsibility to do no harm. Doctor's are guided by the FDA - who is our chosen regulator of safety and, like our doctors, would do no harm. Right? They didn't take money from Big Pharma to fast-track insulin, right? They knew we'd be better off 30 years after they fast-tracked the approval of the first genetically modified human hormone, right? Not really.

None of the almighty insulin manufacturers would second guess their decision to pull natural insulin from the shelves. Genetically modified insulin is cheaper to produce, easy to genetically manipulate without C-peptide, and patentable. This is better for business because it assigns profitable patents to insulin and assists in making diabetes a chronic disease for everyone. I'm going to see if I can get some customer support on this issue.

To hear other issues on Allies Voice, making the world safer for people with diabetes, please subscribe to Allies Voice at http://www.alliesvoice.com.

About the author

Allie Beatty is a leading diabetes advocate. She has written hundreds of articles on The Diabetes Blog, and blogcasts her mission to make the world safer for people with diabets on Allies Voice. Allie broadcasts her blogs about diabetes research, products, and current events in diabetes news. Please SUBSCRIBE for free to support Allies Voice at http://www.alliesvoice.com

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