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Primary care diabetes drug bill rises 62% in five years

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By Beth Gault

09 Sep 2021

Prescribing for diabetes in primary care now accounts for 12.5% of the total spend on all prescription items in England, NHS figures show.

In all there were 57.9 million drugs used to treat diabetes in primary care in 2020/21 at a cost of £1.19 billion, a report from the NHS Business Services Authority shows.

This has risen from 49.7 million items in 2015/16 which cost the NHS £958 million and represented 10% of the overall spend.

The report also notes that the cost of anti-diabetic drugs to the NHS, such as metformin, sulfonylureas and SGLT2 inhibitors has risen by 62% in the past five years to a high of £686 million.

Rising costs follow the increasing levels of diabetes in England the NHSBSA said with 3.05 million patients prescribed drugs for the condition in 2020/21, up 1.5% on the previous year and 12.7% over the past five years.

The figures also show the impact of health inequalities on the condition with the number of patients with prescriptions for diabetes 264% higher in the most deprived areas of England than the least deprived areas.

Increases in prescription items have been steadily rising but saw the smallest rise between 2019/20 and 2020/21 than in previous years, the figures show.

The median cost per patient for diabetes treatments prescribed in the community is £396, the report calculated.

It follows 2019/20 QOF results which showed that practices are continuing to identify more patients with diabetes, which has increased by 66% since 2005.

It comes after millions missed out on vital diabetes check ups during Covid, according to Diabetes UK.

This story initially appeared on our sister title Pulse.

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