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NHS spending on diabetes 'too high'

Researchers say NHS spending on diabetes treatments is excessive, accounting for 7 per cent of the overall prescribing budget in the UK

NHS spending on diabetes drugs is spiralling out of control according to researchers who have found that treatments for the disease account for seven per cent of the overall prescribing budget in the UK.

Researchers at Cardiff University said that the huge rise in the number of people with type 2 diabetes does not explain such high costs. With the number of sufferers expected to rise further still, researchers have said that the NHS must takes steps to rein in spending. In 2008, £700m was spent on diabetes treatments.

Prescription for glucose-lowering drugs rose by 50 per cent between 2000 and 2008, yet costs rose 104 per cent. Costs in England increased from £290m to £591m over the period. Writing in Diabetic Medicine, researchers suggest that the significant cost rise was thanks to increased use of more expensive therapies.

In the journal, researchers claim that pharma companies have aggressively marketed expensive diabetes treatments in recent years. However, they did concede that other figures show that there has been a huge rise in the use of generic treatment, metformin.

Lead researcher Dr Chris Currie said the findings suggest that national guidelines are not being followed. He urged that someone should be responsible for managing the way people with diabetes are treated. In addition, he called for a system to ensure that doctors stick to treatment guidelines.

Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends lifestyle changes as the first step in dealing with type 2 diabetes. GPs are then encouraged to use basic treatments before looking to other options.

The report, which suggests that GPs need to be more analytical when it comes to treatment choices, has been criticised by Diabetes UK. Dr Niti Pall, a GP in Birmingham and Diabetes UK spokesperson, said she did not agree with the outcomes of the report. She said GPs are tasked with getting blood sugar levels as low as they can by whatever means possible to prevent complications.

Dr Pall criticised researchers for not having considered fully the health economics surrounding diabetes treatment and asserted that GPs are saving the NHS money in the long run by keeping blood sugar levels low and, therefore, minimising the risks of disease complications. She argued that in some patients, it is not possible to achieve this result using older, cheaper medicines.

26th July 2010

From: Healthcare

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