In 1857 Mangal Pandey started the process of freedom from the British by discovering that gun cartridges were greased with beef and pork. This sent such a strong wave of anger through both Hindu and Muslim sepoys that the Mutiny was born.
Today, India has 3 crore diabetics - Hindus and Muslims. It is estimated that by 2025, this number will double to 6 crore.
Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar and is needed to convert carbohydrates , sugars and starches found in foods like bread and rice into energy. People with type 1 and some with type 2 diabetes mellitus, are unable to produce sufficient insulin in their pancreas to regulate the glucose levels within their blood. These people must inject insulin one or more times daily in order to manage their condition. It cannot be taken by mouth as the acids in the stomach destroy it. So it is injected by needle or spray.
How is this insulin made ? By killing millions of cows and pigs and putting their insulin into the human body( In the butcher shop the cow’s pancreas is sold as sweetbread ).
In 1921, Frederick Banting and Charles Best in Canada first isolated a secretion called insulin from the pancreas of dogs. Best later extracted insulin from cow pancreas, purified it, filtered it, then tested it on dogs . However the experiments made by Banting on thousands of dogs were of no value to human medicine, since the dogs were not suffering from diabetes . Banting and Best killed thousands of dogs . They tied off the pancreas in the dogs to make it deteriorate. Then they would take an extract of the pancreas and give it to dogs with no pancreas. This resulted in the death of the dogs. Their experiments were criticised by the medical establishment, including the British Medical Journal, which said the results were ”too capricious and indefinite to carry conviction”, and “no results of any value had been obtained by this method of treating human diabetes.”
Despite this, it is claimed that Banting and Best discovered Insulin. Fredick Banting had received a Nobel prize with J J R Macleod for isolating insulin, although Macleod admitted that they had not discovered insulin, they had merely reproduced in the animal lab what was already known. Banting also admitted this in "The Story of Insulin" which he wrote in 1940. The medical historian Bliss wrote "Banting and Best did not discover insulin…it is particularly important to repeat that Banting's great idea, duct ligation on dogs played no essential part in the discovery." The existence of insulin was known before Banting and Best's activities, and the vital purification took place in a chemistry lab.
The first person believed to have successfully administered insulin was MacKenzie Wallis, a British doctor who had learnt from his work in India a great deal about diabetes. He rejected the use of rabbits to screen insulin batches, instead using the test tube method, and treated the first patient within days of the attempts by Banting and Best to treat a 14 year old boy .
Unfortunately because of the preoccupation with animal testing for insulin . animal extracted insulin became dominant . A great deal of resources and time focussed on animal use and extracting insulin from them. Although cow and pig insulin work, their use often resulted in severe allergic reactions because of the simple fact that they are protein foreign to the human body.
By the 1980s the pharmaceutical companies discovered that insulin can also be made by taking human pancreatic cells and reproducing them in bacteria to produce human insulin in laboratories. This insulin which is “ artificial insulin “ is now on sale along with “ natural insulin “ which is the insulin from cows and pigs. But most people do not know the difference leaving the choice to their doctors.
In fact most pharmaceutical companies would be happy to stop animal based insulin as they say genetically engineered insulin more closely resembles insulin made by the human pancreas. But there are many people in the West who insist that they prefer the pancreas of cows and pigs to their own. In fact some diabetics in Canada have gone to court for their right to use it. Since Canadian companies El Lilly and Co and Novo Nordisk have stopped producing animal based insulin, many people in Canada import it from countries in Asia which are still making cow and pig pancreas insulin.While most American companies do not make animal based insulin, European ,British and Indian companies do.
In India , the genetically manufactured insulin(rDNA) entered only in 1995 via Eli Lilly which also sells the pig and cow insulin till now. The human one is called Huminsulin. Now Novo Nordisk and Aventis Pharma also sell rDNA insulin in India. Wockhardt(Wosulin) and Biocon ( Insugen) and Shreya Life Sciences Pvt Ltd ( Recosulin ) are indigenous companies selling human insulin.
The insulin market is estimated at Rs 251 crore (the global insulin market is pegged at Rs 1,500 crore) - and unfortunately the growth rate is about 21.4 % . The human insulin market is growing but about Rs 25 crore worth of cow/pig insulin is still sold in the country.
Who are the companies making cow and pig insulin in India ?Cadila Pharma, Sarabhai, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals .
Genetically engineered insulin is replacing porcine and bovine insulin which is being phased out – but the speed of the replacement depends on which insulin you demand from your doctor. So many of you have been injecting cow /pig blood cells into yourselves daily. Will you continue to be ignorant and put your beliefs on standby ?
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