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In the study published Dec. 21 in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, researchers tested 18 vials of insulin solutions bought at a number of pharmacies in Kansas and Missouri, the Associated Press reported.
On average, the vials contained less than half of what was listed on the label and none of the vials met a minimum standard, according to the study.
"It blew us all away," said lead researcher Alan Carter, a pharmacist and adjunct instructor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy. He conducted the research while at the not-for-profit contract research firm MRIGlobal in Kansas City.
But experts say too few vials were tested for the findings to be definitive, and there are concerns about the methods used to test the insulin. If the findings were accurate, diabetes patients would be getting sick, say insulin makers, patient advocates and diabetes experts, the AP reported.
Many of those groups are trying to reassure diabetes patients, and say that patients should continue taking their insulin as prescribed.
"We want to make sure the study, when completed, will be well accepted," Dr. William Cefalu, the American Diabetes Association's chief scientific officer, told the AP.
About 6 million Americans inject synthetic insulin daily, and most patients use a syringe to draw insulin from a vial, like the ones tested in the study, then inject it.
Without enough insulin, diabetes patients can eventually develop blindness, limb amputations, and life-threatening damage to the kidneys and heart.
"The (insulin) concentration and the amount you give, if just a little bit off, can have huge consequences," Aaron Kowalski of JDRF, which funds diabetes research, the AP reported.
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