Diabetes drugs account for 10% of NHS drugs budget


Drugs for patients with diabetes now cost the NHS in England more than £2.2m every day, new figures have revealed, roughly 10 per cent of the health service’s entire drugs budget.

In less than a decade, the number of prescriptions for the treatment of diabetes has risen by 66.5 per cent, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Last year, more than 45m prescription items – including insulin, anti-diabetic drugs as well as monitoring devices for the condition – were handed out to patients in England, an 18m rise on the number prescribed in 2005/6.

The number of people with diabetes is rising throughout the UK, and though the new figures only relate to England, it is likely that similar high rates of are now taking place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well. It is estimated that there are now 3.2m people living with diabetes in the UK – around five per cent of the entire population. 

Obesity and being overweight are major risk factors for type 2 diabetes, by far the most common form, and the rise in cases is closely linked to the obesity epidemic. Measures to reduce the estimated £10bn total cost of diabetes to the NHS – through drugs, but also treatment of patients with complications and associated conditions – should be focused on prevention, experts now believe.

The leading charity Diabetes UK, said that NHS Health Checks could help identify people at high risk of the condition but said that so far, the schemes had been “poorly implemented”.

Local councils, meanwhile, which now have responsibility for public health, have called on the Government to direct some of the money money from VAT on sugary food and drink into introducing locally-run weight loss and activity programmes. Jonathan McShane, of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board said that the “sheer numbers” of people with diabetes illustrated the need to “help more of the population improve their diets and lead healthy lifestyles.”

HSCIC chairman Kingsley Manning said: “Today's report brings to light the rising costs for managing diabetes in primary care.

"Diabetes continues to be one of the most prevalent life-threatening conditions in England and now accounts for almost 10 per cent of the drugs bill. Our latest data highlights the growing implications to the NHS and patients of managing this condition.”

In the UK, Wales has the highest levels of obesity prevalence, with 173,299 people living with diabetes out of a population of 3.1m