Insulin Supply Chain

I’ve been wondering recently about the stability of the manufacturing processes that we currently have for insulin. Obviously we have several manufacturers of insulin, but does anybody know about those manufacturers facilities? Does most insulin come from one lab? Is the insulin available on the market produced by a third party and marketed under the pharma company in question?

The thing that got me to thinking about this was (ironically enough) a Wendy’s meal I ate the other night. Apparently there was some problem in their supply chain for tomatoes, and so they weren’t serving them on sandwiches that night. It got me to thinking that if there was only a handful of manufacturing facilities in the world that produced most of the insulin, that a major fire, natural disaster or terrorist incident could severely hamper our ability to get insulin.

I know for me personally, I only have 1-6 months worth of insulin at any one time. If something really awful ever happened, it is scary to think about where my insulin would come from. :S

I have been thinking about this as well. I could be wrong but I do not think there are very many manufacturing facilities world wide. I am pretty sure it is the specific pharma companies who actually produce it. I talked with a Novo rep who said he has been to one of their facilities and he said it was like Fort Knox. They have armed guards everywhere. Good for any terrorist activity but not much help with a natural disaster. I at one time lived in Wyoming and had a snow storm shut down the Interstate for 3 days. It was really suprising to me how quickly the grocery stores ran out of products. Loosing my access to insulin has always been a concern for me.

It really is pretty concerning once you start thinking about it. I wouldn’t be worried if there were hundreds and hundreds of facilities worldwide, since that would create redundancy and stability in the supply. I have no idea where and how many of these types of labs are in existence.

Not to sound alarmist or anything, but it would be nice to know what measures are in place to ensure this type of event couldn’t happen.

Since genetically engineered insulin is about as expensive as cocaine (in the USA anyway…), it’s not suprising they have armed guards at the plants!! Something tells me diabetes is not an advantageous mutation in an apocalyptic “Road Warrior” type of scenario? Not that it’s all that advantageous these days but well, you know…

So what you’re saying is that being insulin dependent isn’t going to cause us to grow gills and breathe underwater al la Kevin Costner in Waterworld? :wink:

ah no. Swimming kills my BG though, so it would help me cut back on the use of my final vials. Plus fish and seaweed are pretty low carb too?

Do a google search on insulin manufacturing plants. I didn’t look for too long but was suprised to see these plants were in different places like Bangladesh and Tianjin China. I still don’t think it is enough to make me comfortable though.

I have infinite confidence that my Safeway pharmacy will provide some kind of insulin.


I am wondering if you have found any more info about this topic. GIven the menigitis problem of last month I have become increasingly interested in how we get our insulin --where does itcome from ---and how well policed it is. The supply issue is also important but given that we usually have a few months of supply in the refrig at all times--- I am more ocncerned about the safety issue. Appreciate any comments.

Unfortunately I don't have any more info. I'm currently operating under the assumption that things will be OK, but I don't have any particular confidence that they are or will be.

I don't know for sure, but it seems that much Novo-Nordisk insulin (Novolog, Levemir) comes from their plant in Denmark (outskirts of Copenhagen).

Eli Lilly's (Humalog, Humulin) main insulin facilities seem to be in Indianapolis, and recently (10/2012) announced their first expansion in 20 years.

Sanofi-Aventis (Lantus, Apidra) has insulin plants in Germany (Frankfurt), and Russia (perhaps for local consumption ?)

Wockhardt, in the UK, makes both cow and pig insulin as well as rDNA origin human insulin. They also have plants in India.

There are plants in Asia as well... China recently started manufacture of rDNA humam insulin.

The good news is that the big three are geographically distributed so one disaster woudn't take out all the world's insulin supply. The question is how short things might become if a major plant were lost and whether the remaining world suppliers could keep up with the demand.

Did you ever read Stephan King's novel "The Stand" published in 1978? I was absolutely scared to death, but realized his apocalyptic view of the world seems sound. No matter where things are manufactured, they must be distributed...

No electricity, so over time, no insulin.

Wow, do not mean to be so depressing. It has frightened me forever--Cold War to current problems. As with many chronic diseases, without meds things will not be happy....

That is true.

We got a small taste of life without electricity here in NY after the hurricane. We were without power for 11 days. Fortunately , not much damage... many others suffered far worse. We have a generator, but ran out of the propane to power it after 8 days. We couldn't get a refill since the demand was so high, there were not enough delivery trucks.

You probably saw the problems we had with gasoline delivery too, due to damage to the ports and pipelines, and the fact that the gas stations had no power.

After the generator ran out of fuel, we left to go to my in-laws 2.5 hours away , takinbg all my insulin stockpile with me to keep it refrigerated.

All the perishable food in the grocery stores had to be thrown out...and the storm wa sso widespread that most of the stores were closed.