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NHS ‘wastes’ £625m on synthetic insulin


23 September 2011

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The NHS has "wasted" £625m on synthetic insulin when cheaper alternatives would have "probably been just as effective", research claims.

A study published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open, shows the NHS spent a total of £2,732m on insulin in the past decade, the annual cost of which rose from £156m to £359m – an increase of 130%.


The NHS has "wasted" £625m on synthetic insulin when cheaper alternatives would have "probably been just as effective", research claims.

A study published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open, shows the NHS spent a total of £2,732m on insulin in the past decade, the annual cost of which rose from £156m to £359m – an increase of 130%.

The NHS has "wasted" £625m on synthetic insulin when cheaper alternatives would have "probably been just as effective", research claims.

A study published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Open, shows the NHS spent a total of £2,732m on insulin in the past decade, the annual cost of which rose from £156m to £359m – an increase of 130%.

The authors based their findings on an analysis of publicly available data from four UK prescription pricing agencies for the years 2000 to 2009.

Costs were adjusted for inflation and reported at 2010 prices.

Researchers found the annual cost of synthetic insulin grew from £18.2m to £305m during the past ten years – 85% of the total.

This is compared to the annual cost of human insulin to the NHS, which fell from £131m to £51m.

Based on the assumption human insulin is "probably as effective" as synthetic insulin, the authors argue the NHS could have saved itself £625m.

Professor Craig Currie from Cardiff University told GP Business there is "only a handful of people" who suffer from extreme bouts of hypoglycemia that require synthetic insulin.

"The assumption that human insulin is as effective as synthetic insulin has clinical backing," he said.

"90% of people would not be able to tell the difference between the two."

Synthetic insulin was developed to better mimic the actions of the insulin manufactured by the body, but the study warns it is not clear if the benefits of the medication are sufficient to justify the additional cost.

"We know that the rise of insulin analogues has had a substantial financial impact on the NHS, yet over the same period there has been no observable clinical benefit to justify that investment," said the researchers. 

"It is likely that there was and is considerable scope for financial savings."

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