Prescriptions for diabetes have increased by over 80%  over the past decade, according to the latest figures from NHS Digital.

GP prescriptions for diabetes drugs have increased by 80% between April 2006 to March 2017, while overall prescriptions have only increased by 46%, according to NHS Digital’s latest report.

In the last year, diabetes prescriptions grew more than twice as fast as overall primary care prescriptions. An estimated 8% of the adult population have diabetes, which has a global economic cost of around £450 billion.

Prescriptions for the most commonly prescribed diabetes drug (metformin) rose by 52% over the same period. Over the past decade, prescriptions of metformin have more than doubled from 9.4 million items to 20.8 million.

Costly drugs

The relative cost of diabetes prescriptions has also increased. In the past year, prescription items for diabetes accounted for £1 of every £9 of prescriptions across primary care, while in 2006 they accounted for less than £1 in every £14.

Usually, insulin is the most expensive drug used to treat diabetes, but new products classed as ‘other antidiabetic drugs’ have taken over. These treatments cost the NHS over £322 million in 2017, an increase of almost £220 million from 2006.

Diabetes prescriptions in England: The facts

  • 2006/7 – 28.9 million items dispensed
  • 2015/16 – 49.7 million items dispensed
  • 2016/17 – 52 million items dispensed
  • In 2016/17, items prescribed for diabetes had a total NIC of £983.7 million, compared to £572.4 million in 2006/7.
  • Drugs used in diabetes make up 4.7% of all prescription items, and 11% of total primary care net ingredient costs (NIC).