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Novo Nordisk to withdraw animal insulin

Diabetes UK is disappointed and concerned over Novo Nordisk’s decision to withdraw its range of animal insulins in the UK.

The medicines will no longer be available from the end of December 2007. The decision signals a reduction in choice of treatment for those people with diabetes who require daily insulin injections.

It is estimated up to 20,000 people currently using animal insulins. This is around 2.5 per cent of people with diabetes who require insulin injections. Diabetes UK has long campaigned for the availability of animal insulins as some people are unable to effectively manage their diabetes on human insulins.

"Diabetes care must be about what is best for the individual," said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive, Diabetes UK.

"However the bad news of Novo Nordisks’s decision is softened by the ongoing commitment of Wockhardt UK Ltd to maintaining their range of animal insulins," he said.

"Doctors must ensure that they listen to the experience and preferences of patients to ensure that the move to a different insulin is both safe and effective."

Over 800,000 people in the UK currently use insulin to treat their diabetes. Animal insulins were the first form of insulin available in 1923. Before their discovery there was no genuine means of treating Type 1 diabetes.

Synthetic human insulins were first introduced in the 1980s and analogue insulins were introduced in the late 1990s. There is no particular class of insulin that is better for all people with diabetes.

Patients should be advised of all the alternative insulins available, including other animal, analogue and human insulins. They should discuss with their doctor or nurse the best choice available to them.

Patients who experience difficulties in transferring to different insulins should discuss the problem with their doctor or nurse, and if necessary an alternative insulin should be considered.

Should adverse reactions not be resolved with the doctor or nurse, people should consider reporting the problem to The Yellow Card Scheme at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

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