22. September 2011 13:10
The NHS wasted £625 million over the last decade on synthetic forms of insulin when recommended alternatives were cheaper and probably just as effective, research has shown.
The findings from publicly available data showed the NHS spent a total of £2.7bn on insulin in the last ten years but could’ve saved millions had human insulin been prescribed instead.
Authors of the research said there had been “no observable clinical benefit to justify” the investment and the “rise of insulin analogues has had a substantial financial impact on the NHS”.
The number of people diagnosed with condition has risen to 2.8 million in the UK, with 90% having type II diabetes. Those diagnosed with type I diabetes are immediately prescribed insulin, however those with type II start later with their treatment.
The NHS has seen the annual cost of insulin increase 130% in the last ten years from £156 million to £359 million. Synthetic insulin now costs £305 million a year – accounting for 85% of the total medicine prescribed.
But, over the same period, the cost of human insulin fell from £131 million to £51 million a year. And, if all patients had been prescribed the cheaper alternative, researchers say the NHS could have saved hundreds of millions of pounds.
“It is likely that there was and is considerable scope for financial savings,” said the research authors.
“Most worryingly, the clinical role and safety of insulin for use in people with type II diabetes is being questioned.”
The finding comes as a UN health summit in New York aims to increase international efforts to stop the rising global burden of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes.