If you ran out of insulin - worse-case scenario

I’m curious: If you ran out of insulin and/or were unable to get any (for any reason), what would you do? I’m thinking of worse case scenarios wherein (God forbid), there is a breach in the insulin supply chain. How long could we survive? What should we do? How should we eat or not eat? Are there any supplements, vitamins, herbs, or treatments we could avail ourselves of to prolong our life?
Has anyone ever thought about that? Or lived through a survival situation when insulin was unavailable to you for a prolonged period of time?

@TiJoy. There is no way to survive without insulin. You will starve and waste away until you are too weak to survive. There is no reason to make pretend, this is what happened to every person diagnosed before insulin became available . The number of days of survival depends on your starting health and weight, and that’s about it.

If I couldn’t get Humalog I’d buy a different brand, then I’d buy Regular and Lantus, then NPH. Probably in that order.

Since there is insulin being produced in the US as well as Europe and Asia Pac, the likelihood of total loss of insulin supply is very very remote. There may be a lot of things to worry about, but playing disaster scenarios in your head is probably bad for you.

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I think about that now and then, and can’t come up with a positive answer. Even though there is no production shortage of insulin right now there are people who run out because they can’t afford it, and it is necessary for survival. I suppose we could fast, drink plenty of water, and exercise as much as possible - but that only helps for so long.
On a bit of a side note, I’m looking forward to starting on Dexcom G6 with Tandem’s Control IQ technology, which should help keep me level and more precisely adjust my highs - I tend to over correct, expending more insulin than necessary. And it should keep me from going too low - which might be necessary in certain situations. I should be starting late April.
Also, this might be a stopgap measure, but if you use a pump, get pens with basal insulin as well as insulin to cover meals and snacks. I don’t take pump breaks myself but keep pens on hand as an emergency backup, so they could help buy some time.
Cinnamon and certain herbs are supposed to help with blood sugar - in Type 1s as well as Type 2s - others may have specifics about which ones and how they work. But if they just help the body metabolize the insulin it has, and the body isn’t getting any, then…
I wish I had something better to say, and perhaps others know something more hopeful that I don’t (@Dennis?). But I’m a realist and tend to confront things had on. Even so, I focus on living and enjoying life. I’ll cross those dark bridges if I come to them.

I’m not worried at all. Just engaged in some human “what if” thinking about insulin for us type 1s. Thanks for the replies, guys.

To add to @joe’s comment about using a different formulation - keep in mind you may have to adjust your dosage and timing of you do. Dint know how long you’ve had diabetes and how familiar you are, but when I first started reading about “cheaper” insulins available (some of which I took years and years ago - ahem, cough cough) and did a little investigating, I found that they perform very differently than the ones most of us use now, and people may not realize you can’t make a simple 1 to 1 substitution. I just wanted to throw that in.

Hi Joy @TiJoy, the thought of insulin disappearing from the market, all forms of insulin, although highly unlikely, is frightening. As @Joe wrote, our longevity would be greatly reduced to months or a couple of years.

Although I currently use only Insulin Lispro, I’ve had experience with insulin manufactured from about a half-dozen processes and could probably adapt my life and body to manufactured substitutes.

I’m one year post diagnosis. Thank you both for the information on other forms of insulin. I guess if insulin disappears, I will have to hunt you guys down for help! LOL

Feel free to do that Joy. Just hope we don’t have to go out on the farms and raid pig’s and cow’s pancreas for insulin. That stuff worked, but nothing like present day insulin formulations.

We would be more than glad to help you but we’re not medical pros so do discuss an emergency plan with your doctor just in case :smile:. Take care!

LOL Dennis, I know right?! wadawabbit - yep I know the routine :smile:

I find Control IQ undercorrects.

Thank you for sharing. I’ve read a lot of feedback and many if not most seem happy with their numbers and time in range. Time will tell for me! Thanks again - if you have any tips I’m happy to hear them.

Don’t mess around with native CIQ. Run the pump in sleep mode 24/7. The control is much tighter in sleep mode because the algorithm is much more aggressive.

Hello! As a mum of a son with T1 the thought has popped into head on the odd occasion…Brexit (it did prove a little harder to get insulin from our regular pharmacy) and through this Covid 19 situation we are all in, I have had the thought again tbh …I then quickly change my thoughts to more helpful ones for me! All the best :slight_smile:

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I’ve actually thought about this a lot. If I ran out of insulin, I’d probably eat food without carbohydrates. I’m not sure how long you’d survive, but I know it would be uncomfortable and tiring and probably painful. I think we would have to do activities and things that wouldn’t raise our blood sugars.

But the worst-case scenario is you eat low-carb foods and try to do anything to keep those blood sugars down. Then again, I have no idea because it has never personally happened to me where I’ve had a low insulin supply.

Here’s a story of a woman who survived this exact scenario in WW2 by making her own: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eva_Saxl

And then there’s this: https://www.google.com/amp/s/futurism.com/biohackers-insulin-diabetes/amp

I’ve heard of someone else doing it but this is the first time I’ve seen this particular story. Let’s see, I’ve used pork insulin and need insulin, but water buffalo insulin is news to me! Thanks for sharing.

As Joe stated in the very beginning, you will die, just a matter of when, not if. Now, if it happens that you cannot afford your insulin (humalog, novolog, lantus or levemir), there are much less expensive alternatives avail. Walmart sells Regular ® and NPH insulins for $25/vial. Now, we can probably all agree that the former insulins are much more effective than the latters and that the formers have gotten ridiculously overpriced. However, when you’re talking life and death matters, which these are, you have to adjust your diet and lifestyle to what you can afford. You do what you have to, to survive.

I’d probably give myself a few days to a week tops if that. Whenever I forget to take insulin (doesn’t happen often but it has) I get super high super quick. 400+ in a matter of hours. I don’t have a pump but have heard stories of someone’s hose coming out and them not noticing and then a few hours later are 400. You need insulin even if you don’t eat.

Casey Johnson died because her pump ran out of insulin and she died within a few days. She had other issues to with durgs and alcholol so that may have contributed as well.

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Hi Joe,
Thanks for pointing the obvious in your first sentence. I’ve been using a pump for greater than 24 years, and have no desire to return to my pre-pump 20+ years, though I’m sure I could if absolutely necessary.
I do know that whenever there is a pump or infusion set malfunction it only takes about 4 hours for my blood sugars to be in the 400s even if I have eaten nothing. Therefore, the only question is how long it would take. Of note, at my time of diagnosis, my BG was 1975!! I was still walking and talking, and had been feeling unwell for only about 5 days.