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Cost of diabetes drugs in primary care tops £2m every day

More than 120,000 prescription items dispensed daily; these drugs make up almost 10% of total drugs bill

Caroline White

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Prescriptions to manage diabetes in primary care cost the NHS an average of £2.2 million every day in 2013-14, new figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre show.

The Prescribing for Diabetes report published today draws on data obtained from the Prescribing Analysis and Cost Tool (PACT) system, which covers prescriptions prescribed by GPs, nurses, pharmacists and others in England and dispensed anywhere in the UK.

It shows the Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) for managing diabetes before discounts was £803.1 million in 2013-14. This is a 5.1% increase from £764.1 million in 2012-13—£2.1 million a day on average—and a 56.3% increase on £513.9 million in 2005-06 —£1.4 million per day on average.

Almost 10% of the total primary care drugs bill was spent on managing diabetes, and this shows a continuous annual rise from 6.6% in 2005-06.

This report, which covers the period April 2005 to March 2014 in England, shows that in primary care in 2013-14 there were 45.1 million prescription items for managing diabetes, an average of 123,610 items per day.

This represents a rise of 6.1% on last year’s figures (42.5 million, or 116,510 items per day on average) and a 66.5 % rise on 2005-06 figures (a rise of 18.0 million or 49,370 items per day on average).

Insulin treatments accounted for about one in seven (14.3% or 6.5 million items) items prescribed for diabetes which is similar to 2012-13 (14.6% or 6.2 million) and slightly lower than in 2005-06 (17.4% or 4.7 million).

Seven out of ten diabetes prescriptions were for drugs to treat type 2 diabetes (70.3% or 31.7 million items), representing a 6.9% increase on 29.7 million items prescribed in 2012-13, and almost double the figure for 2005-06 (16.1 million items).

Diagnostic and monitoring devices made up the remainder of diabetes items prescribed, most of which were for blood glucose testing strips.

Costs of all three categories of diabetes drugs have increased since 2005-06, but particularly insulin items where the rise in spending was 11.6% higher than the increase in items prescribed.

HSCIC Chair Kingsley Manning said: "Diabetes continues to be one of the most prevalent life-threatening conditions in England and now accounts for almost 10% of the drugs bill. Our latest data highlights the growing implications to the NHS and patients of managing this condition."

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