Diabetes medication now accounts for nearly 10% of the annual NHS drugs bill, official figures have shown.
Around £725m was spent on 38.3 million prescriptions to treat diabetes between 2010 and 2011, accounting for 8.4% of the total NHS budget. The figure is an increase of 41.1% than the amount spent five years ago, when diabetes accounted for 6.6% of the bill, costing £513m.
Bridget Turner from Diabetes UK, commented that the report “reinforces that diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges this country faces”.
One in every 25 prescriptions now relate to the treatment of diabetes, in particular type 2, which is linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.
The rise in dispensed medications follows an increase in patients diagnosed with diabetes in England, increasing from 1.89 million people in 2005 to 2.34 million people in 2010. This group of people has jumped by nearly a fifth in the past five years to over 2.3 million, now accounting for 4.3% of the country’s entire population having diabetes.
Ms Turner also said that while the figures seem high, the use of such drugs helps to prevent even more serious problems developing.
The Department of Health has said that the rise in spending was not solely linked to the number of patients with the condition.
A spokeswoman added: “A number of factors need to be considered such as increased access to new and more effective medicines and the move towards prescribing medicines preventatively.”
Of these items, 14.6 million were prescriptions for metformin, a drug used in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Prescriptions for the drug increased 70.1% from 2005 to 2011, due primarily to its recommendation from NICE as the first choice for oral therapy in type 2 diabetes.
Tim Straughan, Chief Executive at the NHS Information Centre, said: “This information will help people and health professionals see the impact that caring for diabetes has on NHS prescribing; and support the NHS in planning for how to best address the condition moving forward.”