As many as 50,000 people with diabetes may need to be switched to alternative insulin injections, with certain insulin products expected to be in short supply.
Sanofi, the manufacturer of the products in short supply, warned that missing out on insulin treatment can be “life-threatening.” Affected products include Sanofi’s Insuman Basal 100IU/mL, Insuman Comb 25 100 IU/mL cartridges, and Insuman Basal Solostar 100 IU/mL and Insuman Comb 25 Solostar prefilled pens. Although there will be some stock, supplies could be very limited for the next eight months.
Sanofi stated in a letter to the NHS that there could be a “supply shortage in the United Kingdom of some Insuman presentations (recombinant human insulin) from 1 December 2015.” The problem, they explained, was due to “limited capacity at the manufacturing site […] supply is expected to return to normal in July 2016.”
Many of the 50,000 people treated with this insulin are being switched to alternative insulin injections. For people with type 1 diabetes, going without insulin is simply not an option; a fact recognised in Sanofi’s letter. “Interruption of insulin treatment is potentially life-threatening. Therefore replacement with alternative insulin formations is needed to avoid hyperglycemia and serious complications.”
People on Insuman Basal preparations will be switched to Humulin I and Insulatard. People using Comb 25 products will switch to Humulin M3. Sanofi has retained a small supply of Insuman Basal and Comb25 preparations that will be prescribed on a case-by-case basis.
Insuman is one of many drug shortages affecting the NHS at this time of year. It may, however, be one of the most problematic, because it isn’t possible to switch to a like-for-like insulin. Doctors will have to work with their patients to make the switch to other forms of insulin safe.
“[A] simple switch to an alternative is not possible, and most patients will need input to manage the change safely,” said Dr. Andrew Gree, chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee.

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