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Diabetes prescriptions rise by a third in last five years

Experts predict 5 million type 2 diabetes diagnoses in 2020

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The number of prescriptions of type 2 diabetes medication has risen by one third over the past five years from 26 million prescriptions in 2011 to 35 million prescriptions in 2015.

The sharp rise has been identified by EXASOL, a data analysis company, which has released an analysis of type 2 diabetes medication prescribing in England.

The company analysed 713 million rows of data released by NHS Digital and sourced from the NHS Business Services Authority.

The data captures every GP prescription dispensed at all pharmacies across England and covers six years from August 2010 through to July 2016.

Analysis showed that in the first six months of 2016, the number of prescriptions of type 2 diabetes medications was already higher by more than 8% compared to the same period the year before.

Numbers are rising faster than expected as the data also showed that at the beginning of 2016, 3.5 million adults were believed diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK, meaning that based on current trends of prescribing, there could be 5 million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2020 – five years sooner than previously reported.

The company also found large variations in prescribing across England.

The London district of Newham has the highest prescribing in the country – more than double the national average.

Looking at individual drugs, the research found that more than half of all prescriptions were for Metformin and around a quarter of prescriptions were for Gliclazide, while use of Sitagliptin, a second-line drug, has doubled in the five years to 2015 from more than 96,000 prescriptions to more than 192,000.

Libby Dowling, senior clinical adviser for Diabetes UK told OnMedica: “There are a number of reasons why that number [of prescriptions] has gone up. More people are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as time goes on and those people who have type 2 are living longer.

“People are also picking up on type 2 diabetes earlier and therefore, treating it earlier. Diabetes UK amongst other organisations has done a lot of awareness around type 2 diabetes so it’s great that we are seeing that, to a certain extent, translated into people getting the care that they need in terms of prescriptions.”

A key factor was also, she added, growing awareness amongst health professionals of the importance of looking after the condition properly in their patients.

“Another reason is that there is probably an increased awareness amongst GPs and doctors and nurses around the importance of treating diabetes to target.

“I mean helping people with type 2 diabetes achieve an appropriate blood glucose level because the better we can manage their diabetes, the less chance they have of any of the complications of the condition as time goes on.

“Yes, we are seeing more people with type 2 diabetes but the positive side of that is that we are perhaps treating it a little bit better than we were a few years ago.”

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