Researchers say additional health risks could be avoided by sticking to GP prescriptions.
Researchers from University of Leicester have found that more than a third of people with type 2 diabetes are failing to take their medication as recommended.
The research team, based at the Leicester Diabetes Centre at Leicester General Hospital, said huge savings could be made by getting people with type 2 diabetes to stick to their recommended treatments and also the need for clearer guidance from prescribers.
According to the study, recently published in the journal Diabetes Care, 37.8% of people with type 2 diabetes were not taking their medication as prescribed by their healthcare professional.
The reasons for this could be down to a result of poor support and a lack of explanations about side effects from healthcare professionals.
However, the report suggested that failure to take medication could lead to the development of additional health problems and higher costs to the NHS.
Researchers looked at 318,125 health records and found that people with type 2 diabetes who kept to their prescribed treatments were 10% less likely to visit hospital and were 28% less likely to die than people who failed to take their medication.
Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Co-Director of the Leicester Diabetes Centre and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, who led the study, said: “Despite consistent improvements in the quality of care for diabetes in recent decades, it remains a constant challenge when it comes to premature death.
“It is plausible that efforts to improve adherence may prevent unplanned hospital visits and help to divert resources toward preventive medicine, which should be the cornerstone of any successful public health policy in diabetes.”
Many people with type 2 diabetes can be prescribed five or more different medications to take every day and researchers concluded it was “vital” that healthcare professionals are able to recognise and treat those who do not stick to their suggested routines.
While healthcare professionals have had some success in preventing or delaying complications of type 2 diabetes in high-income countries, the report added that the high number of new diagnosis’ of the condition was of great concern to health bodies.
Professor Khunti added: “Our findings should serve to reinforce to patients the importance of taking medications as prescribed, in order to avoid premature death and preventable admissions to hospital. This could lead to savings not only in terms of medications being prescribed and not used but also reduced hospital admissions and death.”
Professor Melanie Davies CBE, Co-Director of the Leicester Diabetes Centre and Professor of Diabetes Medicine at the University of Leicester, and co-author of the paper, said: “High-quality studies examining the effectiveness of interventions to improve adherence in chronic disease are needed to guide international efforts to curb the effects of the diabetes epidemic.
“It is important to help people to understand how their drugs work and why they should take them as this may increase the likelihood of people taking their medication regularly.”