February 19, 2001
Question from Texas, USA:
I have recently heard that there have been problems associated with Humalog Insulin. The report indicated that Lilly is now manufacturing human insulin and no longer are producing the pork insulin. According to the report, if you are on one kind and get switched over to the other, this can cause some serious side effects such as comas, etc. They also reported that one person died due to this. I have a 15 year old son with diabetes, and this is a major concern to me as he has been using Humalog for about two years. What information do you have?
Without knowing more exactly the report to which you were referring, I am not sure that I fully understand your concern. I am assuming though that you feel that your 15 year old son, who has been on Humalog for two years, is now at risk from this product, and that you would like to see him changed to some other form of insulin. However, you are also under the impression that such a change also has risks, and, in particular, to Humulin or unsubstituted human insulin.
The use of both Humulin and Humalog insulin in children has been exhaustively investigated as has the transfer of one to the other and the use of the two insulins together. As a result, both insulins have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). It is still true of course than any insulin can cause hypoglycemia and that no insulin can wholly prevent the march of vascular complications especially to the eyes and kidneys, but I know of no reports that suggest that your son should be taken off Humalog for any reason other than perhaps to achieve better control.
You should certainly discuss these issues with his doctor. In the meantime, you may perhaps be reassured by reading the following:
Safety of insulin lispro: pooled data from clinical trials.
(Am J Health Syst Pharm, 1999 Mar 15;56(6):542-7,
Glazer NB, Zalani S, Anderson JH, Bastyr EJ)
Additional comments from Dr. Bill Quick:
“Humalog” and “Humulin” are both brand names for products made by the Eli Lilly company.