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Diabetes drug prescriptions rise by 40 per cent

The cost and number of drugs prescribed to treat diabetes in England has risen by more than 40 per cent in the last five years according to a new NHS report released today.

The NHS Information Centre has found that just over 35.5 million prescription items were dispensed in primary care units across England in 2009/10 at a cost of nearly £650 million. This is in comparison to 24.8 million items in 2004/5 at a cost of £458.6 million.

Report findings

According to the report, Prescribing for Diabetes in England: 2004/5 to 2009/10, the prevalence of diabetes in England has increased from 3.3 per cent in 2004/5 to 4.1 per cent in 2009/10. As a result, the number of items being prescribed and the related costs have also increased. The relatively high cost for some of the newer drugs used to treat diabetes has had a large impact.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 7.7 per cent of the total cost for all primary care prescriptions could be related to diabetes (an increase from 5.8 per cent in 2004/5).
  • Prescriptions for Metformin (recommended by The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for oral therapy) increased by 73 per cent. The associated cost also rose by 161 per cent to £60.5 million.
  • Prescriptions for thiazolidinediones drugs (pioglitazone and rosiglitazone) increased by 90 per cent. The associated cost also rose by 38 per cent to £78.6 million.
  • Prescriptions for human analogue insulins increased by 116 per cent. The associated cost also rose by 132 per cent to £255.2 million.

The report also found that there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of diagnostic and monitoring agents that were prescribed to patients for self-testing of blood glucose levels.

Impact on people with diabetes

Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at Diabetes UK, Simon O’Neill, said: "This large rise in diabetes drug prescriptions and costs appears to be equally due to the far greater population of people with diabetes and to the wider prescribing of newer and more expensive therapies.

"Diabetes UK believes that people with diabetes should have access to the most appropriate treatment to manage their condition. For those for whom older therapies are effective, they should be allowed continued access to those but where people with diabetes are unable to manage their diabetes effectively, a wider range of treatment options are required.

"The long-term costs of poor diabetes management i.e. care for someone who’s had a heart attack or stroke, lost their sight or lower limb, far outweigh those of the drugs that help prevent such devastating complications."

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