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UK diabetes prescriptions rise 50 per cent in six years

New figures show condition’s growing impact on primary care prescribing

Primary care prescribing on diabetes is steadily increasing and the condition’s impact is widespread in all other areas of the NHS, according to new figures.

These show diabetes drugs accounting for a far greater share of both total drugs dispensed and the total net cost to the NHS each year, and the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) says this year’s diabetes prescriptions topped 40m, an increase of nearly 50 per cent over the last six years ago. 

The leap in prescriptions, from 13.5m in 2005-06 to 40.6m in 2011-12, coincides with an increase in net cost of diabetes drugs of just under 50 per cent, according to the HSCIC’s Prescribing for Diabetes in England: 2005/06 to 2011/12

The growth in diabetes prescriptions over this period is much greater than the increase for overall prescriptions, which saw growth at a rate of 33 per cent increase. 

While the overall cost of all drugs to the NHS dropped by just over one per cent, the bill for diabetes drugs crept up by nearly five per cent. 

Commenting on the findings, Tim Straughan, chief executive of HSCIC, said: "Our figures show diabetes is having a growing impact on prescribing in a very obvious way, from the amount of prescriptions dispensed to patients in primary care to the annual drugs bill costs to the NHS.

"Other reports we produce, such as our National Diabetes Audit and the Quality and Outcomes Framework, also demonstrate the impact of diabetes is widespread in all areas of the health service: from pharmacy to hospital care.

"When all this information is considered together, it presents a full and somewhat-concerning picture of the increasing impact of this condition.”

Health Minister Simon Burns said: "The number of people with diabetes has been rising for years, mainly because of an increase in the number of people who are obese due to a lack of exercise and unhealthy diets.

"That has obviously led to an increase in the number of people having diabetes drugs prescribed for them, but the rise in the cost of the diabetes drugs bill is also being driven by new more expensive medication, which is effective at helping diabetes sufferers.”

During the period of the report new drugs to hit the market included Merck & Co’s Januvia (sitagliptin), Novartis’ Galvus (vildagliptin) and Bristol-Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca’s Onglyza (saxagliptin).

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