Sudden death and human insulin: is there a link?

Diabet Med. 1993 Apr;10(3):255-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.1993.tb00053.x.


Case reports from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1989 have suggested that the introduction of human insulin in 1985 was associated with an increased risk of sudden death in insulin-treated diabetic patients. If human insulin increases the risk of sudden death, the number of these should have increased during the period where human insulin was introduced. We therefore identified all cases of sudden death in Denmark in younger insulin-treated diabetic patients, age at death below 50 years. During this period the consumption of human insulin went from 0.2% to 70% of the total consumption in Denmark. The total number of cases fulfilling the inclusion criteria was 226, and the annual number of sudden deaths did not change during the study period (p = 0.14). The number of deaths due to hypoglycaemia and cases with unexplained cause of death also remained constant (test for trend: p = 0.44). Chronic alcohol abuse or acute alcohol intoxication was found in 50% of the 135 patients dying from hypoglycaemia, ketoacidosis or unknown cause of death (including found dead in bed), while this was the case in only 16% of the remaining 91 cases dying from other natural causes. We conclude that introduction of human insulin in Denmark was not followed by an increase in sudden deaths among younger insulin-treated diabetic patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Death, Sudden*
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / mortality*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemia / epidemiology
  • Hypoglycemia / mortality*
  • Insulin / adverse effects*
  • Insulin / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Recombinant Proteins / adverse effects*
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Registries


  • Insulin
  • Recombinant Proteins