INSULIN, the hormone that is a lifeline for many of Britain's 800,000 diabetics, is to be made a prescription-only medicine by the end of the year.
The Medicines Control Agency has been forced to make changes, following misuse of the drug by bodybuilders looking to increase their muscle mass.
However, the move has prompted protests by those who believe diabetics must have easy, instant access to insulin.
Since its discovery in the Twenties, insulin has saved millions of lives.
More than 800,000 people in the UK are diabetic, with about one-third relying on insulin injections for survival because they are unable to produce enough of the hormone naturally.
Astonishingly, because doctors are accustomed to writing prescriptions for diabetics, many in the medical profession are unaware that insulin is classified as a pharmacy (P) drug.
It can be sold without a prescription, provided a pharmacist is made aware of the sale by the assistant and can intervene if necessary.
The new move is fiercely opposed by many who are diabetic or who care for diabetics. 'I don't think putting insulin on prescription will stop people abusing it,' says Anne Eltringham, a diabetes care adviser.
'Bodybuilders abuse anabolic steroids even though they are illegal. People who are determined can usually find ways round the regulations.' Peter McKeown, 31, assistant head of youth and family services for the British Diabetic Association, needs to inject insulin four times daily. …