This site is intended for health professionals only

Primary care diabetes drug bill rises 62% in five years


By Emma Wilkinson
9 September 2021

Share this story:


Prescribing for diabetes in primary care now accounts for 12.5% of the total spend on all prescription items in England, NHS figures show.

In all there were 57.9 million drugs used to treat diabetes in primary care in 2020/21 at a cost of £1.19 billion, a report from the NHS Business Services Authority shows.

This has risen from 49.7 million items in 2015/16 which cost the NHS £958 million and represented 10% of the overall spend.

The report also notes that the cost of anti-diabetic drugs to the NHS, such as metformin, sulfonylureas and SGLT2 inhibitors has risen by 62% in the past five years to a high of £686 million.

Rising costs follow the increasing levels of diabetes in England the NHSBSA said with 3.05 million patients prescribed drugs for the condition in 2020/21, up 1.5% on the previous year and 12.7% over the past five years.

The figures also show the impact of health inequalities on the condition with the number of patients with prescriptions for diabetes 264% higher in the most deprived areas of England than the least deprived areas.

Increases in prescription items have been steadily rising but saw the smallest rise between 2019/20 and 2020/21 than in previous years, the figures show.

The median cost per patient for diabetes treatments prescribed in the community is £396, the report calculated.

It follows 2019/20 QOF results which showed that practices are continuing to identify more patients with diabetes, which has increased by 66% since 2005.

Want news like this straight to your inbox?

Related news

David Olusoga: Racism ‘still disfiguring’ the NHS
Racism and discrimination are ‘still disfiguring’ the NHS and limited opportunities are available to staff...
Sajid Javid NHS
Health secretary Sajid Javid says the current primary care model is ‘not working’
Health secretary Sajid Javid set out a ‘plan for change’ for primary care, as the...