Human Insulin as Good as Costly Synthetic Versions

News Picture: Human Insulin as Good as Costly Synthetic Versions

FRIDAY, June 29, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Human insulin is as safe and effective as newer, more expensive insulin analog drugs for people with type 2 diabetes, researchers report.

The new study included people with type 2 diabetes who were followed for an average of 1.7 years after they started using insulin.

"We found that for patients with type 2 diabetes in usual practice, the use of the more expensive insulin analogs did not appear to result in better safety -- at least as defined by hospital or emergency visits for hypoglycemia -- or better blood sugar control," said lead author Dr. Kasia Lipska. She is an assistant professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

"This suggests that many people with type 2 diabetes should consider starting with [human] insulin, instead of insulin analogs, especially if cost is an issue for them," she added in a Yale news release.

About 25 percent of people with type 2 diabetes eventually require insulin to control their blood sugar.

According to study co-author Andrew Karter, "For decades, people initiating insulin treatment were prescribed human insulin. Then in the 2000s, a new generation of long-acting insulin analogs emerged that were designed to mimic human insulin." Karter is a senior research scientist in Kaiser Permanente's division of research.

Lipska explained that "the problem is that insulin analogs are much more expensive" than human insulin.

A vial of insulin analog costs about $200 to $300, compared with $25 for a vial of human insulin. In the United States, the cost of analog insulin tripled between 2002 and 2013, the study authors noted.

Previous research by Karter showed that higher out-of-pocket costs make diabetes patients less likely to take prescribed medicines.

"The cost differential between analog and [human] insulins is huge, up to a 10-fold difference," Karter said. "Some people with type 2 diabetes may find the potential benefits of insulin analogs worth the additional cost. But we found no population-level evidence to suggest that the extra expenditure is warranted for most people with type 2 diabetes, particularly when the high cost could prevent some of them from getting the treatment they need."

The study was published June 23 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Yale University, news release, June 26, 2018