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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 August, 2003, 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
Indian firm markets vegetarian insulin
By Zubair Ahmed
BBC correspondent in Bombay

Insulin injection
It is estimated that there will be 57 million diabetics in India by 2025

An Indian drug company has launched what it claims is Asia's first vegetarian insulin.

The new insulin is derived from yeast, as opposed to pigs or cows, as most insulin in India is at present.

The company which has manufactured the drug, Wockhardt, says that this type of insulin will also avoid other viral infections such as BSE and CJD associated with insulin derived from animals.

Until now nearly 90% of the insulin available on the Indian market was derived from pigs or cows which are proscribed respectively in the Muslim and Hindu communities.


Wockhardt says it has launched the yeast-based insulin after 10 years of research.

Company chairman Habil Khorakiwala says: "This is a technology breakthrough not for Wockhardt but for India."

Insulin-dependent diabetes patients have to use the drug for life and for that reason a vegetarian variety is welcome in India, which has the world's largest population of diabetics.

This is a technology breakthrough not for Wockhardt but for India
Habil Khorakiwala, chairman, Wockhardt
But medical experts believe selling the new product to an existing patient will not be easy because switching over to the new insulin might lead to complications.

Most insulin products currently on sale in India are manufactured by foreign multinational companies, but are assembled and packaged in the country.

This will be the first type of insulin to be manufactured inside India.

Wockhardt has priced a 10-centilitre bottle of the insulin at 130 rupees (nearly $3)

Other insulin products are available at between $5 and $8 a bottle.

But critics are concerned that once the patients are dependent on insulin the company might raise the price.

The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2025, the number of people suffering from the disease in India will rise from 30m to 57m.

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