100 years on: the first use of insulin in Australia

Sophie Templer
Med J Aust 2023; 219 (10): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.52137
Published online: 20 November 2023

A century ago, the only accepted treatment for diabetes in Australia and worldwide was the so‐called “starvation diet” of severely restricted carbohydrate intake. However, near‐starvation only prolonged the natural course of disease, and profound hunger and progressive emaciation would almost inevitably give way to coma and eventually death. The successful isolation of a therapeutic pancreatic extract in the Canadian summer of 1921 by Frederick Banting, Charles Best, James Collip and John Macleod followed numerous less successful attempts by other researchers over preceding decades. The extract, which they named “insulin” (from the Latin insula, meaning island), would become, in the words of medical historian Michael Bliss, “the elixir of life for millions of human beings around the world”.1

  • Bankstown–Lidcombe Hospital, Sydney, NSW

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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