New report reveals 80% rise in treatments prescribed over last decade.
Diabetes treatments being prescribed in primary care have seen a spike of 80% over the last 10 years – according to a newly published report.
While treatments prescribed for other conditions in primary care have also risen by 46% in that time the rate of prescriptions made available to treat diabetes is almost double - as in the last year the number of items prescribed for diabetes grew more than twice as fast (4.7%) than the overall increase in prescriptions across primary care (2%).
The NHS Digital report Prescribing for Diabetes: England 2006/07 to 2016/17 revealed that 52 million items were prescribed for diabetes in 2016/17, up from 49.7 million in 2015/16, and 28.9 million in 2006/07.
Prescribing for diabetes in primary care has grown nearly twice as quickly as the rise in diabetes prevalence across the population, researchers reported, for the years where comparable figures were available.
Figures from the recent Quality Outcomes Framework looking at the number of cases of diabetes showed that there was a 22.6% increase in diabetes prevalence in England between 2009/10 and 2015/16.
Over the same period, prescriptions in primary care for diabetes increased by 40%, while prescriptions for the most commonly prescribed category of diabetes drugs, including Biguanides (metformin), rose by by 51.5%.
Over the last decade, prescribing of metformin for people with diabetes has more than doubled, from 9.4 million items in 2006/07 to 20.8 million items in 2016/17.
Over the last year the report found that 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.
Compared to the cost of prescriptions across primary care falling overall the cost of diabetes drugs increased over the last year.
Between 2015/16 and 2016/17, there was a slight reduction in the overall cost of prescription items across primary care, with the figure falling below £9 billion.
However, during the same period there was a £27 million increase for diabetes treatments - which totalled £983.7m in 2016/17.
For the first time drugs outside of insulin were reported to be the most expensive category of drugs used in diabetes. While these account for a low proportion of all items prescribed for diabetes, the figure had more than tripled in 2016/17 to £322.5 million, compared with £103 million a decade ago in 2006/07.
Dr Mayank Patel, Consultant in Diabetes University Hospital Southampton and DRWF Editorial Advisory Board member, said: “It is likely that the increase in the amount of diabetes medicines being prescribed can be attributed to several factors. The number of new cases of diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, remains high and hence there are more people who need treatment. These new cases add to the already established population of people living with diabetes.
"People are now also living longer and as such, may require treatment for a longer period of time. With type 2 diabetes, as time passes, the pancreas may become less sensitive to tablet based treatment. In that situation, insulin is often necessary, which in part could explain the increased expenditure on insulin.”