The discovery of insulin occurred 100 years ago. As the world commemorates the anniversary of this life-saving medication, it’s hard to imagine living with the limited treatment options prior to its development. Advancements in insulin delivery have been continual; there has been a progression from animal-based products to less allergenic biosynthetic formulations, from limited durations (short-, intermediate- and long-acting) to fast-acting and ultra-long choices that better imitate the body’s production and improved methods of administration (e.g. pens, pumps).

Similar to insulin development, pharmacy professionals have also progressed; there has been significant growth from the days of simply supplying insulin to now being active key members of a patient’s healthcare team. Pharmacy professionals assist in managing blood sugars, instruction on how to use new devices, and recommendations on dosing and timing of medications. Although insulin development has helped to improve the lives of many, patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of contracting infections such as COVID-19. It’s important pharmacy professionals recognize the collective impact they have on patient care and the broader health system, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although insulin development has helped to improve the lives of many, patients with diabetes are at an increased risk of contracting infections such as COVID-19.

It’s well recognized that those affected with diabetes are at a higher risk of comorbid complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, and infections. Also, early data on the incidence of case fatality rates with COVID-19 showed that patients with diabetes had the second-highest fatality rates, second to those with cardiovascular disease.[i] Until vaccination becomes widespread and complete, pharmacy professionals need to maintain vigilance in counselling high-risk patients to boost the prevention of COVID-19. 

Healthcare worker at home visit
Here are some tips to help provide patient support and manage diabetes patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic:

If the past 100 years of insulin development have taught us anything, it is that pharmacy professionals can contribute to expanding the boundaries of diabetes management.


Over the last year, pharmacy professionals have had to adapt their practices considerably due to the pandemic. Through the encouragement of healthy lifestyle choices, virtual and in-person counselling, and practice application pharmacy professionals can contribute to the overall optimization of diabetes and aid in minimizing concerns regarding COVID-19.

Joanne Deshpande, BSc Phm, RPh

Joanne Deshpande, BSc Phm, RPh

Joanne has diversified her pharmacy background by working in industry, hospital, retail and drug information. She currently divides her time between doing medical writing for the Ontario Pharmacists Association and working at an independent clinic pharmacy in Toronto.

Additional Resources

OPA will be highlighting 100 years of insulin from April through June in partnership with BD and Ascensia Diabetes Care. To discover more about the momentous discovery of insulin, pharmacy’s role in diabetes patient care, and additional resources visit


[i] Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia Emergency Response Epidemiology Team. Vital surveillances: the epidemiological characteristics of an outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus diseases (COVID-19) – China. China-CDC Weekly. Published online at Accessed 2021 March 4 from:[ii] Diabetes Canada. 2018 Guidelines Appendices. Accessed 2021 March 4.[iii] Drug Shortages Canada. Accessed 2021 March 4.