[originally posted November 4, 2009]

On November 2, the Food and Drug Administration published the following notice about the drug that I depend on to regulate Frankie’s diabetes:

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) and Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health are alerting veterinarians and pet owners that Vetsulin®, a porcine insulin zinc suspension used to treat diabetes in animals, may have varying amounts of crystalline zinc insulin in the formulation. Because this Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health product is out of specification it could cause a delay in insulin action and an overall longer duration of insulin activity. Products having significant problems with stability can affect the management of chronic diseases. Unstable insulin products can result in unpredictable fluctuations in the glucose levels of diabetic patients. Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is unable to assure FDA that each batch of their product is stable.

While Intervet/Schering-Plough is working with FDA on resolving this issue, supplies may be limited. Therefore, veterinarians should consider transitioning their diabetic patients to other insulin products. In addition, FDA encourages veterinarians to report any adverse events with the Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health product to the company through the Technical Services Department at 1-800-224-5318.

My first response to the notice was, I’m embarrassed to report, a sense of vindication. I’d told one of the vets in the practice I go to that some bottles of Vetsulin seem to be more effective than others. She scoffed at me, saying I was the only one to report that, and that perhaps I wasn’t giving the shots uniformly. Ah, vets who question owners’ ability to deal with canine diabetes… we’ve been there before (see Showdown in the Canine Diabetes Corral).

But as the implications of the problem set in, that I might have to try to get Frankie adjusted to another type of insulin, I realized this was the kind of cold comfort I experienced with my recent robbery — I’m not crazy, I really was robbed — and akin to the old joke about the gravestone that reads, “See, I told you I was sick.”

Update 1: My vet suggested that I research the Canadian version of Vetsulin, called Caninsulin, to see if it was affected. After calling a Canadian pharmacy that was clueless — and discovering that, for some reason, Caninsulin doesn’t require a prescription — I went to the best resource for all things relating to diabetes in dogs: the forum at k9diabetes.com. The bad news: it’s a global problem with all products, including Caninsulin, coming from Intervet/Schering-Plough, based in Germany. I think that, for the time being, I’m going to stockpile Vetsulin, which has worked fine as long as I continue to do glucose testing. But, as I’ve often said, it’s not my intention to discuss medical issues here — and there’s no reason to, when k9diabetes.com does such a great job.

Update 2: From Natalie, administrator of k9diabetes.com.

I spent a fair amount of time this morning alerting clinics I’m familiar with regarding the Vetsulin issue. Many did not yet seem to be aware of it. Only one thought I was trying to sell something ;)

Your readers could do a great service to diabetic dogs and cats by calling to alert their own veterinarians regarding this issue in case they do not hear about it through other channels.

6 thoughts on “The Vetsulin Crisis: Cold Comfort”

  1. Hi Edie, I love your blog. I went through the same thing as you did with the vetsulin. I stockpiled as much as I could which ran out in July 2010. Then I ordered from a Canadian pharacy. Then my vet got Zeke enrolled in the Critical Need Program from Intervet so we can still get Vetsulin for Zeke. He is almost 14 years old and has done well on the Vetsulin and his Vet and I did not want to switch him to another type of insulin. Please visit our blog to learn more about Zeke and his diabetes.

    Dog Diabetes

    1. Thanks for writing, Paula. I checked out your blog — very interesting. I still have a bit of Vetsulin left but had already decided to get Frankie enrolled in the Critical Need Program. I was glad to read it was not as expensive as I’d anticipated.

    2. Can anyone please tell me how to get my dog enrolled in the Critical Dog Program? We tried to switch my Annie to Humalin and she did not do well at all!! My vet attempted to do what she could to get me a few extra bottles of the Vetsulin and then whatever program she was going through stopped! I am almost out of her insulin and don’t know what to do next. The vet suggested that I try the insulin I can get from Canada but is this safe??

      1. The Critical Need program is over… The Caninsulin (the Canadian version of Vetsulin) is safe… but it’s difficult to get hold of any more. I’ve been blogging about this problem. Do a search for Caninsulin on this site and you’ll find posts within the last month on what’s been happening on that front.

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