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April 22, 2021


For those in the diabetes community, 2021 marks a significant year.  It was 100 years ago, back in 1921 that insulin was discovered.  It was a monumental discovery as any person living with diabetes and requiring insulin to live can attest to.  Without insulin, there is no life.

Before the discovery of insulin, a diagnosis of diabetes meant certain death.  Children would wither away and slip into a coma with families watching helplessly.  There was nothing that could be done to stop what all knew was the inevitable.  But, in the summer of 1921, Banting and his colleagues paved the road to the discovery of insulin.  In December 1921, after much hard work, a purified more concentrated form of insulin that would be safe enough to administer to humans was developed.  On January 11, 1922 Leonard Thompson became the first person to receive an insulin injection.  He was just 14 years old and in a coma.  Insulin saved his life.

A century later, millions of lives have been saved because of insulin.  Over the past 100 years, insulin has undergone changes and today many forms of insulins are available.  The delivery of insulin has also progressed from the early days of syringes, to the partially automated insulin pumps of today.

Insulin was Frederick Banting’s gift to the world.  He had no intention of profiting from his discovery.  In fact, the patent for insulin was sold for a mere $1.00.  Unfortunately, Banting’s vision of giving insulin to the world has not materialized.  We just have to look south to our American neighbours to see the disparity between insulin prices depending on where one lives.  In these situations people with diabetes requiring insulin to live must make decisions about whether to ration their insulin and risk the ravages of diabetes complications or make payment on their rent.  The situation is no better and I’d say far worse in other parts of the world where children are still dying because they do not have access to insulin.

The discovery of insulin was truly a miracle.  It saves lives.  However we must not become complacent and take for granted the access we have here in Canada.  Even within our own borders, access is not equal across all provinces and territories.  A collective voice can bring about change.  A simple letter to an MP or MPP to call for access for all with diabetes is a start.  Let’s keep Banting’s gift to the world truly what he wanted it to be, a gift.

Interested in learning more about the discovery of insulin? Visit these great sites:

Interested in advocacy work? Have a look at these sites:—policies/advocate-for-diabetes-canada

At the West Toronto Diabetes Education Program, we are here to support those in the diabetes community living with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.  We provide both individualized care and group programming.  Our current group programs are running via virtual platforms and range in topics from Introduction to Healthy Eating, Cooking Demos to Diabetes and Mindfulness.

More information can be found at : or simply give us a call  at 416-252-1928.

By:  Odilia Almeida BScN, RN, CDE


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