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Diabetes drugs costs NHS England nearly £1bn a year

Prescribing costs for diabetes have almost doubled in the last decade

Mark Gould

Thursday, 04 August 2016

The annual NHS England budget for the treatment and management of diabetes is approaching £1 billion per year, according to new figures from NHS Digital.

Ingredient costs for diabetes drugs have increased by £88.0 million in 2015/16, bringing the annual primary care prescribing spend diabetes medicines in England to £956.7 million - around £2.6 million per day.

In the last financial year, 49.7 million prescription items were dispensed in England for the treatment and management of diabetes.

The £956.7 million spend makes up 10.6% of the total cost of all prescribing in primary care in England, and is almost double the cost of a decade ago, when it was £513.9 million, or 6.6% of the overall spend.

Of the three main diabetes treatment areas in primary care for 2015/16, prescribed antidiabetic drugs cost the NHS £422.7 million, prescribed insulin cost the NHS £343.7 million, and prescribed diagnostic and monitoring devices cost the NHS £186.6 million.

The figures show the West Midlands is the region of England with the highest proportion of people over the age of 17 who are diabetic: 7.5%. The south central area has the lowest prevalence rate, at 5.6%.

The east London borough of Newham spends proportionately more of its drugs budget than anywhere else in England on diabetes medication, at 17.9%. North Tyneside spends the lowest, at 7.4%. Newham also dispensed the highest proportion of drugs for diabetes, at 9%.

The spend on medication differed widely in different parts of England. The cost per patient treated was highest in Warwickshire North, at £415 a head, and lowest in Northumberland (£239).

Since 2007/08, the British National Formulary classification ‘Drugs used in diabetes’ has accounted for the highest cost of all drug sections, while the number of prescription items dispensed in this category has also increased every year since 2005/06. This is in line with a steady increase year on year in the percentage of the population being treated for diabetes.

On a national level, the Quality and Outcomes Framework report of 2014/15 shows that the average percentage of all GP-registered patients, aged 17 and over, in England, being treated for diabetes has increased from 5.3% in 2009/10 to 6.4% in 2014/15. This means in 2014/15 there were 2.9 million adults in England receiving treatment for diabetes.

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