More money is spent on diabetes medication in primary care than on treatments for any other condition, with almost £600 million of medicines prescribed by doctors last year, according to a report.
A total of 32.9 million diabetes drugs, costing £599.3 million, were prescribed in the past financial year. In 2004-05 there were 24.8 million, costing £458 million, according to the report ‘Prescribing for Diabetes in England’, produced by the NHS Information Centre.
The report shows that the number of insulin items prescribed last year rose to 5.5 million, at a total cost of £288.3 million. It marked an eight per cent rise on the £267 million spent in the previous year.
Younger people developing Type 2 diabetes
The centre claimed that the bill was being pushed up by younger people developing Type 2 diabetes and being prescribed insulin to manage their condition.
A spokeswoman for the centre told The Times: "Type 2 is increasing. We are seeing it in younger people, and because it is a progressive disease people are needing an increasing number of interventions as time goes by."
She added that long-acting insulins such as Glargine were now common. "For people who are struggling to control their Type 2 diabetes it makes sense, but it is quite a big clinical change from five or ten years ago."
Cost of diabetes rising
Simon O'Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at leading health charity Diabetes UK, said:
"Three people are now diagnosed with diabetes every hour, so it is no surprise that the cost of treating the condition is rising. Not only are more people developing diabetes, but more cases of Type 2 diabetes - which can be undiagnosed for ten years or more - are being picked up earlier because of increased awareness and screening efforts.
"People with diabetes often take a combination of drugs to treat their condition. The co-morbidities of diabetes mean that it is not only vital to lower blood glucose levels through insulin or tablets, but also to prevent and treat complications. This may mean people have to take blood pressure control medication and drugs to lower cholesterol, for example, alongside blood glucose lowering agents.
He added: "Every person with diabetes is different, and their individual circumstances must be the most important factor in deciding how to best treat them. Treatment must be prescribed based on individual clinical need and not on cost or postcode.
"The Government must ensure that attempts at short-term cost savings do not jeopardise the health of people with diabetes and increase the burden on the NHS in the long-term."