Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Medical Horror: Martin's Story

One local character in this part of the world is a guy called Martin. He is a very active person, volunteering for all sorts of community projects, working with non-profits, etc. What relatively few people know is that Martin is a type 1 diabetic and has been for around thirty years.

I ran into Martin at the Cafe. He was sitting quietly with a cup of coffee looking pensive. I stopped to chat and during our conversation, he told me the following horror story.

Martin has been taking the same combination of insulins for over a quarter of a century. It appears to suit him, as he has had none of the side effects which can afflict diabetics -- his eyes and extremities are all in good shape. He is clearly a person in good health. Recently, he went to the drug store to get his supply of insulin and was told that one kind he takes was being discontinued by the manufacturer. So, he went to see his physician and between them they found another kind of insulin that was pretty similar. However, when he went back to the drug store to get the new stuff, it turned that this too had been discontinued. It was just after this happened that I ran into Martin.

Now, I may get some of the details wrong here, but the details of the situation are something like this. Apparently, Martin takes two kinds of insulin, one of which is short acting, the other of which is long acting. The problem is with the long acting kind. It seems now that, for reasons that are radically unclear, the drug companies have radically changed the kinds of long acting insulins that they make. Martin is going to be faced with making changes to a regime that has kept him in good shape for years. Apparently, Martin has not taken a sick day in over a decade.

Now, I don't know too much about diabetes, but I do know Martin. He is clearly fit, healthy and thriving. He seemed to suggest that making changes in his regime was quite a big and worrying thing to do. What I do not get though is why the drug companies are permitted to do this kind of thing? After all, if something is not broken, then why fix it, as they say. I am assuming that the motivation of the drug companies has to do with patents and profit. However, I just wonder how many other people are in a situation similar to Martin's? Does this happen with other kinds of medications too? Why does the FDA permit situations like this to arise?

I hope that Martin does ok. He is a real asset to our community. I think that the situation is sad.

The CP


Blogger Minnesota Nice said...

Hello - I saw your comment on Scott Johnson's post and was very curious about the situation.
First of all, let me commend you for being such a good, considerate friend to Martin.
There were at least two different insulins that I know of that were discontinued within the last few months. I concluded that it was due to lack of demand.
I can see why Martin is upset - if someone has done very well for 30 years, a "forced" change in routine would be stressful and frustrating, to say the least.
My advice would be for Martin to work closely with his doctor and find a new combination that will yield good results. And if the doctor is unwilling to spend the needed amount ot time in doing this then get a new doctor. After all, we are medical consumers and have the right to getting our money's worth.

1:35 PM  
Blogger julia said...

Hi. I saw your comment at Scott's, too.

I know there were two kinds of animal-derived insulin that were recently discontinued. I don't know that much about them, but I believe the demand was very low for these two insulins.

I can understand your friend's frustration and worry. It's always scary to make changes to your insulin regime, especially if it's something you've been doing for ages. That said, the new analog insulins are very good. It may take him a few weeks to tweak everything to the appropriate levels, but it can be done. If he works really closely with his endo, he should be able to do this without too much bother.

Before going on a pump, my daughter used Lantus and Humalog and they were both fantastic - much better than the NPH and Regular she started using when she was a toddler. The other long acting is Levemir, which also works well. We've used that when O has wanted to go untethered from her pump.

You might want to tell your friend to check out the diabetes online community. There's a lot of great, helpful people online and I'm sure any one of them would be more than happy to help with any questions.

One great resource is It's not just a children's site - there is a TON of info there. Another site that links to every single diabetes website out there is

Hope some of that helped.

12:31 PM  

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