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Readers Desperate to Hang On to Animal Insulin
I enjoy reading your articles. Lately I have taken great interest in the discontinuation of beef-pork insulin, covered in the October 1998 article, "Parting Causes Great Sorrow," by Robin Harrison.
I've been an endurance athlete for over 15 years. In 1997, I was competing in 200-mile bicycle races. In a year's time, my physical abilities were so reduced I had to struggle to walk. I thought I would never be able to return to my original level of physical activity.
Then, it was suggested to me to revert back to animal-based insulin. Within 24 to 48 hours of using this insulin, I made a tremendous recovery.
My pleas to Lilly to reinstate Iletin I Regular and Iletin NPH fall on deaf ears. I know you have been supportive in maintaining the availability of animal insulin for those of us who respond adversely to synthetically based insulins.
Can you tell us the latest work on this issue?
Thank you again for your publication.
Christie P. Grimstad
When I received my most recent prescription of beef-pork NPH insulin, it stated that they were discontinuing the manufacturing of it and I would have to change to human insulin. I've tried taking the human insulin, and I would pass out at work before I could catch myself to drink orange juice or candy. I have lodged a complaint with Eli Lilly and Company. What else can I do?
I called the FDA MedWatch for options about importing animal insulin because I have problems on human insulin. (By the way, the phone number is  463-6332.)
I talked to Harold Davis at the FDA and he wasn't interested in talking about CP Pharmaceuticals [of the United Kingdom] or Biobras [of Brazil], the companies that are asking the FDA for permission to expert animal insulin into the United States.
Davis told me that animal insulin will be available from Canada, but you can get it through your physician only. I also learned that if people get this insulin from Canada, they pay the full price, with no reimbursement.
Editor's note: We called Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly. Both said this information from the FDA is wrong. According to Novo Nordisk, Novo animal insulin has not been sold in Canada for five years, and will not be in the future. Lilly said that the situations in the United States and Canada are identical. The beef-pork insulin supply is now being depleted, and no more will be made. Both companies will continue to manufacture pork insulin.
We are currently working on a story about American activists' efforts to pressure the government on allowing the importation of animal insulin from abroad. Look for it in an upcoming issue.
FastTake Meter-False Advertising?
Having said that, I have a complaint about the FastTake advertisement on page 21 of the February issue. LifeScan has been advertising for over a year that the meter is capable of downloading data, which is misinformation. As it is now, this meter has no way to download data.
LifeScan Replies: Manufacturing Delay Caused Seemingly False Information
When it was introduced last year, LifeScan's FastTake meter was designed to download blood glucose results from its memory to a personal computer. However, to transfer those results to a PC, the meter requires a special adapter cable and LifeScan's PC interface cable. The adapter cable plugs into the FastTake meter and then into the interface cable, which, in turn, plugs into the user's PC.
LifeScan had expected that the adapter cable would be available around the time the FastTake meter was launched. Unfortunately, the adapter cable was unexpectedly delayed. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this may have caused our customers.
As a result of this unforeseen delay, LifeScan changed the FastTake meter's package to clearly inform purchasers that the computer interface would be available in 1999. In fact, we're please to announce that adapter cable shipments are scheduled to begin in late March to customers who've requested it.
FastTake customers who would like to receive the adapter cable and the interface cable should call our customer services line at (800) 227-8862. The adapter cable is free to FastTake customers, and the PC interface cable is available for $5, which covers shipping and handling.
Associate Marketing Communications Manager
Rezulin Story is Not Hype
The "media hype" about Rezulin is not hype. The media rarely prints anything derogatory about prescription drugs, so, for any of the articles warning people about Rezulin to appear in the news, there has to be a connection between the alarming number of liver-related deaths and Rezulin.
Every diabetic owes it to himself or herself to delve into nonprescription remedies and nutritional supports. It all comes down to personal responsibility for one's own health, and not depending on others who may not know the exact needs and sensitivities of some patients' body systems.
The Semantics of Meter Accuracy
The January issue included an interesting story [on plasma-calibrated versus whole-blood-calibrated glucose meters, "Is Your New Meter Reading Higher? Here's Why Reference is Important"] where you write, "Both the 188 and the 112 readings are accurate readings." I have some trouble with this, mainly because you precede the above sentence with the phrases, "...if the meter is 20 percent too low" and "...too high," which appear to me to be definitions of inaccurate readings.
I think it is also true that "accuracy" can be used to measure "consistency" or "repeatability," as opposed to "precision," which is used to measure departures from "truth." A meter is accurate in this sense if it reads 188 for several tests of the same blood sample, even if the sample's true value is 157. But how can accuracy be claimed when a single reading can be 20 percent off in an unknown direction, as far as the sampler is concerned?
If a single definition of blood glucose could be specified, and if all errors were of the order of 5 percent, none of this would matter, of course. The measured value would then be so close to the true value that the treatment (insulin, CHO, etc.) could always be appropriate to the reading.
Thank you for listening.
A. W. Merz
Portola Valley, California
Reader Keeps His Medical Team On Its Toes
I am a subscriber to Diabetes Health and believe it provides cutting-edge information for us folks not in the medical field. I use the information to keep my medical assist team on its toes.
I look forward to receiving every month's copy. You keep sending them and I'll keep reading them. Thanks for your help.
San Jose, California
Thanks for Writing to Ann Landers
Thank you for your excellent response to Ann Landers's uneducated advice and opinion on testing your blood sugar and taking your insulin shot in public, published in the European edition of The Stars & Stripes. I agree with your response 100 percent.
I have had diabetes for nine years. I test my blood five times a day, and give myself four to five injections a day.
I do not hesitate to take my blood sugar and injection in public. Also, I do not hesitate to publicly educate those who have no clue about our disease and approach me with rude comments. Diabetics need to be more outspoken about their disease. There are still too many myths and half-truths out there.
Thanks again for speaking up for all of us.
I was very angered by the Ann Landers column. I've had diabetes for eight years, and I've struggled with testing in public. People are really insensitive sometimes.
I've traveled to Spain and there people treat you better than they do in the United States. Adults treat you with respect, and that's the golden rule there. In the United States, people seem to be more judgmental based on how much they stare at you (or try not to stare) like you are a freak.
I'm proposing that some of us who want attitudes to change use the Ann Landers piece as a catalyst for change. I've studied the Civil Rights movement and know that as people feel more and more oppressed, they get sick of it and fight back. We have to change things if we want to live with more understanding.
Iria Vasquez, a senior at St. Francis High School
Mountain View, California
A Vote for Ann
Please allow me to register my "vote" on the side of Ann Landers. I agree with the writer who stated that diabetics insist on not being treated differently, but then, set themselves apart by injecting in public. Obviously, the argument for discreetness is moot; otherwise, the issue would not arise. I am guilty of injecting in my seat on airplanes and other public places. However, I agree that injecting is not a sight that should be imposed on others. To inject at the dinner table (and I've done it) is gross, insensitive and about as tacky as smoking cigarettes. Both compel others to share in an experience without their permission.
Your arguments, and those of the readers of Diabetes Health, are missing the point and giving diabetics the right to be ill-mannered, using our condition as an excuse. Shame on each of you. There simply is no excuse for offending others by injecting in public, especially at the dining table.
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Cartoon Contributed to Myth that People with Diabetes Can't Eat Sugar
I'm writing regarding the "Sugarless Humor" cartoon in the February Diabetes Health. This cartoon depicts a woman, obviously with diabetes, standing in line at an ice cream vending cart waiting to purchase an ice cream. As the line shortens, the woman visualizes an insulin syringe, decides against the ice cream and walks away, looking dejected.
As a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator at the Joslin Clinic in Boston, I find this cartoon to be lacking humor. Actually, I find it quite sad. In fact, it goes against everything diabetes educators have been teaching people with diabetes for the past few years. The message my colleagues and I convey to our patients is that any food can fit into a meal plan, whether it contains sugar or not. No one with diabetes should feel that he or she cannot enjoy something as tasty as ice cream if he or she chooses.
Nutrition guidelines for people changed in 1994. Now that it is 1999, I sincerely hope that diabetes publications such as yours will act to support these guidelines by selecting appropriate cartoons, articles and advertisements to dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding eating and diabetes.
Amy E. Peterson, MS, RD, CDE
"Humor is a very serious thing. I like to think of it as one of our greatest earliest natural resources, which must be preserved at all cost."
Thanks for writing. Your message is very important, as is having a sense of humor about diabetes. The purpose of our cartoons is not to give advice but rather to help us take time to laugh about the crazy lives we all share as people with diabetes.
This character is balancing her options. Maybe she decides that taking extra insulin to cover the ice cream could lead to weight gain. The cartoon is not meant to imply that one can never again eat ice cream. The sketching of her thoughts, of the ice cream cone turning into a syringe, is meant to help us giggle about all of the different things going through our heads when we make food choices.
From the JDF and ADA-We Like Each Other
In February Diabetes Health looked at the lobbying styles of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation (JDF) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The ADA is seen as more aggressive and confrontational, while the JDF is known to use more collaborative, cooperative tactics. In light of the DRWG announcements, the JDF and ADA worked together on this letter to Diabetes Health.