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November 2018

Diabetes prescribing accounts for 13% of NHS drugs bill

More than 53 million items were prescribed for diabetes in the last year, at a cost of more than £1 billion. Drugs used in the treatment of diabetes now make up 11.4% of primary care net ingredient costs (NIC), and 4.9% of all prescription items.

Drugs used in diabetes account for the highest cost of any BNF section, according to the latest report from NHS Digital.

The number of prescription items for diabetes has risen by more than 22 million and their cost has doubled to £421.7 million in the last 10 years. Diabetes prescribing as a proportion of all prescribing has also risen from 7.3% to 11.4% over the same period.

The prevalence of diabetes in the population of England now stands at 6.8%, and nine out of ten cases are type 2 diabetes. The number of patients on the QOF diabetes register has increased by almost a million since 2009.

The rate of increase in costs for drugs used in diabetes has been higher than for drugs used in other conditions, and has increased by 71.4% between 2007-08 and 2017-18. While some of the increase in the number of items is explained by the increase in prevalence, the increase in costs has been fuelled in part by the introduction of new antidiabetic drugs. The annual NIC has almost doubled to just under £400 per patient.

Costs for insulins and for diagnostic and monitoring devices (and consumables) have also risen.

NHS Digital. Prescribing for diabetes, England 2007-08 to 2017-18, 8 November 2018.