MAY 18, 2005

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International aid agency established at Oklahoma Diabetes Center

Insulin for Life, an international not-for-profit aid agency established in Australia in 1986, recently established a United States affiliate at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s Oklahoma Diabetes Center. Managed by Dr. Alicia Jenkins with the support of Dr. Timothy Lyons, section chief of Diabetes and Endocrinology, the OU Health Sciences Center has sent supplies to Rwanda, Bolivia, South America, Russia and China.

“Insulin is a life-saving medication for anyone with Type-1 diabetes,” Jenkins said. “In many developing countries the cost of insulin is more than 50 percent of the average annual income, yet having to go without insulin for as little as a few weeks can be a painful death sentence.”

One goal of the Insulin for Life program is to make available insulin, glucose test strips and other related supplies during crisis situations. Supplies from the Insulin for Life organization reached Sri Lanka within 14 days of the recent tsunami; with financial support from the American Diabetes Association , Children with Diabetes Foundation and the International Aid Fund monthly shipments will continue to be sent. Other countries, usually via their national Diabetes Associations, receive shipments on a regular basis to supplement supplies provided by their government or purchased at high cost. Often the additional supplies mean the ability for people to have better blood glucose control, improving their health in both the short and long-term.

Other Insulin for Life objectives are mentoring similar programs and developing and implementing sustainable improvements in insulin supply in countries in need. The program is based on collecting from diabetes centers unopened and in-date surplus insulin and glucose test strips that would otherwise be wasted and sending the supplies overseas.

The program has recently been recognized by the American Diabetes Association with the 2005 Harold Rifkin Award for Distinguished International Service in the Cause of Diabetes. This year the organization also received the 2005 Sir Phillip Sherlock Distinguished Award for Services to Diabetes Internationally. This is the first time the Sir Phillip Sherlock Award has been presented to an agency outside the Caribbean.

“We are very pleased to be part of this organization,” said Lyons. “ With the dedication of Professor Alicia Jenkins and devoted Diabetes Center Staff; Becky Mosley, Sharon Silliman, Azar Dashti, Kerri May and Sharon Buckley, making this program a priority, OU Health Sciences Center has become the first Insulin for Life site in North America. This is one more way our faculty and staff are making a difference around the world.”

Since 1986, Insulin for Life has donated 1.25 million milliliters of insulin; 1.4 million syringes; 245,000 blood test strips and quantities of insulin pens, needles, lancets, monitors and other items to 50 countries. This quantity of supplies, valued at $3.4 million can keep 42,000 people alive for three months.

For more information about the international Insulin for Life program, visit www.insulinforlife.org.