PZI Insulin, which is porcine or pig based insulin, labeled as Vetsulin for dogs and cats in the United States and as Caninsulin in Canada and 23 other countries, has just been re-approved by the FDA for veterinarians to prescribe to their pet diabetes patients under what is being referred to as a new Critical-Need Program.
Over the last 6 months, countless numbers of diabetic dogs and cats on Vetsulin have died. Others have suffered devastating and for many pets, irreversible health consequences including blindness, liver and kidney failure. Well meaning diabetic pet owners have faced not only financial strain but also tremendous emotional duress. In addition, a $29 Million Dollar Vetsulin Class Action Law Suit. The FDA and Vetsulin manufacturer, Intervet/Schering Plough, announced the “Vetsulin Alert” initially on November 3rd, 2009. The alert was issued because there was a concern that certain batches of Vetsulin “might be unstable.” It may be of interest to note that on November 3rd, 2009, Schering-Plough merged with Merck. The FDA Vetsulin Alert is quoted as follows: National Report — November 3rd, 2009
“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert on the possible variation in the amounts of crystalline zinc insulin contained in the formulation of Vetsulin. The FDA reports it is working with the manufacturer Intervet/Schering-Plough to monitor patients using the product. Veterinarians should watch for changes in onset or duration of Vetsulin activity, or any signs of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, FDA says. Until the matter is resolved, supplies of Vetsulin® may be limited, FDA adds, so veterinarians should consider other alternatives. Suspected adverse reactions related to the drug can be reported to Intervet/Schering-Plough by calling: 1-800-224-5318.”
To date, neither the FDA, nor Intervet/Schering-Plough have issued a formal Vetsulin recall. The unstable Vetsulin batches as well as their respective lot numbers have never, to this author’s knowledge, been revealed or formally documented. Veterinarians were initially advised to simply “closely monitor their diabetic patients.”
Despite the fact that diabetic pets continue to suffer devastating health consequences related to Vetsulin’s stability issues, the FDA just announced approval of Vetsulin under a new Critical-Need program. They say the new plan was created because Vetsulin is “such a popular diabetes treatment” and the FDA wanted to address concerns regarding its supply.
We have had a terrible time with our Lab, Josie, after the Vetsulin was recalled. We switched to Walmart’s N and she is not responding well at all! My vet just told me about this Critical-Care program and I have to say I can’t get my hands on it soon enough. She did great on it for over 2 years and now I fear we have shortened her life by not being able to regulate her insulin for 2 months. She is almost 13 and has rapidly gone down hill and it breaks my heart to see her not feel good and not be able to do anything about it.
I would be glad to help you regulate your dog’s insulin levels.
My fear is you are making a terrible life threatening mistake by going back to Vetsulin.
Truthfully Vetsulin is a very inferior product for diabetic pets, that has already taken the lives of hundreds,
if not thousands of pets and there is NO reason for any pet to ever use it.
Please feel free to call my office toll free at 1-866-372-2765.
Hey Dr. Carol.
Just a few things. I have taken ALL my clients dogs off Vetsulin and have been using Walmart’s brand of NPH insulin Novolin. Eli Lilly’s Humulin-N is still on the market but at twice the cost.
Vetsulin is NOT PZI insulin. PZI is long acting Protamin Zinc Insulin. Vetsulin is intermediate acting porcine zinc insulin and is not suitable for cats.
There is a human recombinant DNA PZI insulin licensed for use in cats called Prozinc manufactured by Boehringer. The cheapest I have seen it is $100 a bottle but keep in mind it is U40 which means one is paying $100 for 400 units of insulin.
Unfortunately, the FDA has not only reapproved Vetsulin for dogs but also for cats. Vetsulin is not appropriate for cats as it is too short acting. I have put most of my diabetic cats on human recombinant glargine insulin, trade name Lantus. It is also around $100 a bottle but it is U100 so the client is paying $100 for 1000 units.
Cats typically use such a small amount of either that the difference is huge. It must be remembered that you MUST use U40 syringes with U40 insulin and U100 syringes with U100 insulin.
Glargine is a steady state insulin meaning it has little or no peaks and valleys and typically lasts 12 hours.
PZI lasts about the same but has significant peaks and valleys meaning more curves need to be done which I encourage cat owners to do at home.
Inexpensive blood glucose kits are available and surprisingly easy to use on both cats and dogs.
To this day NO ONE has identified which batches of Vetsulin were not within specification and how far out of specification they were. Regardless, there is no reason to EVER use Vetsulin for cats or dogs as there are far better and safer insulin alternatives.
Dr. Keith Contarino, DVM
Hi Dr. Contarino,
What a nice surprise to hear from you after all this time.
I appreciate your informative note about insulin issues and pet diabetes and am sure my pet loving community will enjoy this information as well.
It is most unfortunate that the FDA re-approved Vetsulin and I am sure many more dogs and cats will suffer and likely die as a result of using Vetsulin.
I think the real problem is educating veterinarians on all of this so as to get uniform understanding about what type of insulin is best
and how to properly monitor and adjust insulin dosages at home.
Sadly it appears that many vets are still having pet owners come in at weekly, bi-weekly and in some cases even monthly for blood glucose curves
and still leave diabetic pet owners “hanging,” never teaching them how to actually calculate insulin dosages twice a day at home.
In addition, I still receive phone calls on a daily basis from diabetic pet owners who tell me their vet just let them know about the “tainted” Vetsulin.
I am always glad to hear from you and am glad your diabetic cats are doing well on the Lantus (glargine).
Since we spoke that evening and after hours and hours of researching for a published list of the lot numbers involved in the “tainted” Vetsulin batches from Intervet/Schering Plough, I am still able to find nothing which is truly unbelievable.
A scary sign of just how powerful these big corporations are and how they are able to bypass normal FDA regulation and at the same time manage to continue selling outdated, “tainted pharmaceuticals, like Vetsulin and for that matter Rimadyl responsible for taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent dogs and cats.
Hello, I adore your blog on diabetes!
We just lost (by euthanasia) our beloved 15 year old dachshund, Roxie. She was diagnosed with diabetes
three years ago and was put on Vetsulin. For nearly two years her blood glucose was all over the place and
no one seemed to be able to explain why. She had uncounted needle sticks, all kinds of dosage changes,
and she still went very high and very low.
During that time she began losing her hearing and eyesight. Six months ago we moved from Florida to Greenville, South Carolina and received an e-mail from our former vet about the instability of Vetsulin. We rushed Roxie to a vet here in Greenville who was a gift from God. She changed Roxie’s insulin, stabilized her diabetes, and fell in love with little Roxie as well.
For four months Roxie’s sugar had stabilized and she felt well; however, her body was so deteriorated from the unchecked diabetes for so long that we finally had to let her go. By now she was also completely deaf and blind.
We are devastated and miss her little presence in our home so much. We are a part of the class-action suit in defense of Roxie, but I would much rather have her back with us.
Thanks for your wonderful website and for your updates on the Vetsulin Law Suit.
I just spoke with a lawyer involved with the Vetsulin Class Action Law Suit and he praised your website so I thought I’d check it out.
Our sweet, loving pets who rely on us to take good care of them need us to speak up for them about the harm they have suffered.
Thanks for helping us to do so.
I am very sorry to hear about your dog and express my sympathy and understanding to you for Roxie.
If you would like to talk or I can help in any way please feel free to call my office toll free at 1-866-372-2765 at any time.
I just picked up my bottle of Novolin N, thanks to your recomendation on this site. It was only $24 at Walmart compared to the $67 for Prozinc, and $39 I was paying for Vetsulin which Pepper did horrible on.
My mixed breed snauzer developed cataracts 1 month after starting vetsulin, she also had alot of problems getting regulated, and had several seizures, and attacks. I am hoping for better and less expensive results with the Novolin.
I am having sum trouble converting from the U-40 insulin to the U-100 insulin. I normally give her 8 to 10 units of vetsulin or ProZinc twice a day. Now tbe conversions Im finding is saying to give her 2.5 the amount, because of the difference in needle size.
I’m not sure if Im suppose to be giving her 25 units of the Novolin n or the same amount as long as Im using the correct needle size.
I am glad you are changing Pepper over to DNA based insulin and it is important to always use the needles that match the units on your insulin.
I am glad to help you calculate your new insulin dosage and can also help you with daily monitoring and insulin dosage calculations each morning and evening.
Please feel free to call my office toll free at 1-866-372-2765.
Keep up your good work!
Thank you for your kind condolences on our loss of Roxie.
I miss her sweet little presence more than I can say, and
it hurts me to know that we gave her bad medicine for so
long thinking we were helping her. That’s part of our
grief. Our vet here in Greenville, Dr. Sanders, is an
angel for pets and their humans: she has helped us a
great deal, both in caring for Roxie, and in caring for
us after Roxie’s death. We are very grateful to have
found her when we moved here. My husband and I are slowly recovering from the intensity of the loss, and
are able to talk of Roxie without crying all the time.
She was a wonderful little dachshund who loved us to pieces and we are so blessed to have rescued her and had her in our lives. Thanks for your continued work on behalf of our little four-legged friends. Valerie Ayres
I appreciate your kind note and am always glad to help in any way possible.
Please feel free to call me any time, even if you just want to talk.
My Blessings go out to you and Roxie