Prescription items for diabetes in primary care have increased by 80.1 per cent over the last decade, compared with a 46.0 per cent rise across all primary care prescribing, an NHS Digital report published today (August 1) shows.
The report – Prescribing for Diabetes: England 2006/07 to 2016/17 – shows that in the last year the number of items prescribed for diabetes grew more than twice as fast (4.7 per cent) than the overall increase in prescriptions across primary care (2.0 per cent).
Some 52.0 million items were prescribed for diabetes in 2016/17, up from 49.7 million in 2015/16 and 28.9 million in 2006/07.
For the years where comparable figures are available, prescribing for diabetes in primary care has grown nearly twice as quickly as the rise in diabetes prevalence across the population. The latest prevalence figures (2015/16) available, from the Quality Outcomes Framework, show that there was a 22.6 per cent increase in diabetes prevalence in England between 2009/10 and 2015/16.
Prescriptions in primary care for diabetes increased by 40.0 per cent over the same period and prescriptions for the most commonly prescribed category of diabetes drugs, biguanides (metformin), rose by by 51.5 per cent over this period.
Prescribing of metformin for diabetes has more than doubled, from 9.4 million items in 2006/07 to 20.8 million items in 2016/17.
In 2016/17 prescription items for diabetes accounted for around £1 in every £9 of the cost of prescription items across primary care. In 2006/07 it was less than £1 in every £14.
The cost of diabetes drugs increased over the last year, compared to the cost of prescriptions across primary care falling overall. Drugs used in diabetes account for the highest cost of all British National Formulary therapeutic areas. This has been the case since 2007/08.
Between 2015/16 and 2016/17, there was a marginal reduction in the overall cost of prescription items across primary care, with the figure falling below £9bn. But, over this period, there was a £27.0m increase for diabetes, which totalled £983.7m in 2016/17.
Simon O’Neill, director of health intelligence for Diabetes UK, commented: “The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has risen by 54 per cent in the last decade, so it is no surprise that levels of prescribing have risen by almost the same level.
“But the increase in prescribing in primary care is indicative of the hard work doctors are doing to help people living with diabetes keep their blood glucose at safe levels, and preventing devastating, and costly, complications – such as cardiovascular and kidney disease – further down the line.
“It is vital that drugs being prescribed are reviewed regularly to not only ensure patients receive the most effective therapy, but also to reduce waste. Diabetes is one of our biggest health crises, and with 12 million people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, it is clear that focusing on prevention is vital to prevent costs rising even higher.”