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NHS spends over £1bn on diabetes drugs in one year, official data shows


By Elisabeth Mahase
Reporter
9 November 2018

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The NHS spent over £1bn on diabetes drugs last year, accounting for over 11% of the total cost of prescribing in primary care, new figures have revealed.

The latest NHS Digital statistics also found that 53m items were prescribed for diabetes in 2017/18, 1m more than the year before, and 22m more than in 2007/08.

The report, published yesterday, revealed that of the £8.9bn spent on primary care prescribing, £1.01bn (11.4%) was attributed to diabetes drugs.

Looking at quantity of items, it found that 5% of all 1.1billion items prescribed in primary care were for drugs used in diabetes.

The document said: ‘Since 2007/08, “drugs used in diabetes”, has accounted for the highest cost of any of the British National Formulary sections listed.

‘The number of items prescribed in England has increased every year since 2007/08. 53.4m items were prescribed for diabetes in 2017/18, up from 52.0m in 2016/17, and 30.8m in 2007/08.’

London-based GP and head of primary care at Imperial College London Professor Azeem Majeed, who specialises in diabetes, said: ‘The very high costs to the NHS of treating diabetes are an inevitable consequence of the increase in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes in recent decades.’

‘We need effective strategies at both population and individual level, and changes in the obesogenic environment we live in, to reverse these adverse lifestyle- associated factors and bring down the prevalence of type 2 diabetes,’ he added.

According to Diabetes UK, the condition ‘is responsible for 26,000 early deaths per year alongside serious complications such as blindness, amputation or stroke’.

Head of Policy at Diabetes UK Robin Hewings said: ‘This data shows that diabetes prescribing costs £1bn, but it’s estimated that the total cost to the NHS is over £10bn a year so the real price we have to pay for diabetes is not medications, but the devastating and expensive complications.

‘That’s why we need to focus spending more money on helping people manage their diabetes well. The NHS needs to maintain its focus on diabetes in its long term plan, and particularly to make sure that people receive the education, care and technologies to help them manage their condition safely.’

This story was first published on our sister publication Pulse.
Additional reporting by Valeria Fiore. 

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