Animal-based insulin is becoming increasingly difficult to find in the West, and Eli Lilly recently announced plans to stop selling animal-insulin in Canada. That decision has brought on the anger of a number of diabetes charities who accuse the drug company of putting people ahead of profits in withdrawing the animal-insulin.
Until the early 1980s, all insulin was either beef or pork-based. But in the early 1980s, synthetic insulin began to get approval in Western countries and has gradually displaced animal-based insulin. Synthetic insulin has a number of advantages, including that it is cheaper to produce, has fewer impurities, and its is more-or-less identical to human insulin.
But some users of animal-based insulin claim that the synthetic insulin causes any number of side effects, and that it gives them better awareness of impending low blood sugar.
Comparative studies between the two, however, have tended to show that synthetic insulin is just as safe and effect as animal-based insulin, and avoids the potential of an immune response that is a risk with animal-based insulin.
Diabetics fear loss of animal insulin. Don Harrison, The Province, July 22, 2005.