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Commemorative Postal Issue | Centenary of Insulin Discovery

About the Stamp

In the centre of the stamp, there is a graphical representation of the eye’s iris, to provide a close look at daily habits and alert to the problem of diabetes; the symbol is a blue circle with the text “Centenary of the Discovery of Insulin”. The scene is then completed by a detail of the molecular structure of insulin, a vial with its chemical composition, and a syringe, alluding to the substance’s administration. The technique employed in this work is digital illustration. This is also the first Brazilian postage stamp with a 2D barcode, better known as QR Code. Each stamp has an alphanumeric code, comprised of five letters and four numbers, sequentially-generated.

Centenary of Insulin Discovery

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Henry Best, in the Department of Physiology of the University of Toronto, Canada. It constituted one of the greatest triumphs of modern medicine, evolving from the initial research procedures to its clinical use with spectacular results in approximately 6 months.

There are, however, two dimensions to this discovery. The first was the scientific knowledge that resulted in a better understanding of the physiology of glucose control, and control of other nutrients in the body - as well as the mechanisms involved in diabetes, a very serious disease. Further studies resulted in a great scientific development, which culminated in insulin being the first protein molecule produced by genetic engineering.

The second dimension refers to large-scale production of insulin in record time, providing access to insuline for thousands of people with diabetes, globally - such that in 1923, which was only two years after its discovery, tem major companies were already producing insulin in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia.

It is worth mentioning the fact that Banting, Best, J.J.R MacLeod and James Collip - understood that insulin was an achievement of Humanity itself, so they made a decision: to grant the patent and rights to the University of Toronto, for the symbolic price of 1 Canadian dollar.

Thus, all those around the world who needed the substance finally began having access to insulin, radically changing the treatment of diabetes. For younger people, diabetes used to mean certain death, but 12 to 18 months later, they became able to live healthy, long and productive lives.

Sir Frederick Banting received countless honours from all countries, including the Nobel Prize for Medicine, in 1923.

Since its discovery, insulin has undergone numerous changes in its formulation, structure, and administration forms, making the treatment modalities safer, more effective, and comfortable. All these advances were aimed at making treatment closer to the normal functioning of the pancreas, which is limited in people with diabetes.

Why celebrate in Brazil

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that there are 16.8 million people with diabetes in Brazil, of which at least 6.5 million require insulin for treatment.

The insulins NPH and Regular, the most used in Brazil, are found free of charge at the Health Units, and at the Farmácia Popular (Popular Drugstore), always with great availability and without interruptions.

The SBD received the good news about the distribution by the Brazilian Unified Health System (SUS) of NPH and Regular insulins in 3.0 ml refills to be used in pens. The pen is a device that allows for accurate, comfortable, and autonomous administration of insulin.

Other more sophisticated types of insulin, mainly indicated for people whose diabetes has a more unstable behaviour, can be found at the Pharmacies each State’s Health Department.

We are still far from what was idealized by the discoverers, but we have come a long way in recent years, despite the regional diversities of Brazil.

The Brazilian Diabetes Society has the greatest joy in participating in this homage, as it is indeed a very opportune moment for the celebration and issuing of the postage stamp by the Post Office. It is a great way for the population to learn about the discovery of insulin, especially for those people who use it daily.

Brazilian Diabetes Society

Technical Details

Stamp issue N. 9

Art: Marise Silva

Print system: offset

Paper: self-adhesive chalky paper

Sheet with 12 stamps

Facial value: 1st class rate for domestic mail

Issue: 200,000 stamps

Design area: 69 x 36mm

Stamp dimensions: 69 x 36mm

Perforation: cut to shape with “BR”

Date of issue: July 27th, 2021

Place of issue: Brasília/DF

Printing: Brazilian Mint

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