Prescriptions for diabetes medicines in England have risen by 50% in the last six years, while overall NHS prescriptions have risen by 33%.
According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the number of diabetes prescriptions reached 40 million in 2011–12.
This was an increase of 2.3 million (6%) on the previous year alone.
The net cost to the NHS of diabetes-related medicines rose by almost 50% in the same period, the HSIC notes, due to the uptake of new drugs such as Januvia, Galvus and Onglyza.
A total of 2.5 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in England.
Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90% of cases, is treated with a range of oral medications and sometimes with insulin.
“We face the real possibility of diabetes bankrupting the NHS within a generation,” commented Barbara Young, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.
The only solution, she argued, was to “grasp the nettle on preventing Type 2 diabetes” through early identification and correction of risk factors.
HSCIC Chief Executive Tim Straughan said: “Our figures show diabetes is having a growing impact on prescribing in a very obvious way.”
The impact of diabetes was visible throughout the NHS, he added, affecting such areas as pharmacy and hospital care.