The cost of diabetes to the NHS is over £1.5m an hour or 10% of the NHS budget for England and Wales. This equates to over £25,000 being spent on diabetes every minute.

In total, an estimated £14 billion pounds is spent a year on treating diabetes and its complications, with the cost of treating complications representing the much higher cost.

The prevalence of diabetes is estimated to rise to 4 million by 2025.

Costs of diabetes treatment in the UK

The following table represents the relative cost of diabetes treatment in the UK in 2012.

Cost of diabetes treatment in the UK in 2012
Area of expenditure Type 1
Type 2
Percentage of costs
Source: Kanavos, van den Aardweg and Schurer: Diabetes expenditure, burden of disease and management in 5 EU countries, LSE (Jan 2012)
Diabetes drugs £0.344 billion £0.712 billion £1.056 billion 7.8%
Non-diabetes drugs £0.281 billion £1.810 billion £2.091 billion 15.2%
Inpatient £1.007 billion £8.038 billion £9.045 billion 65.8%
Outpatient (excluding drugs) £0.170 billion £1.158 billion £1,328 billion 9.7%
Other (including social service) £0.230 billion 1.7%
Total £1.802 billion £11.718 billion £13.750 billion 100%

The cost of diabetes complications

A 2012 report from the London School of Economics, estimates that the cost of prescribing medication for complications of diabetes is around 3 to 4 times the cost of prescribing diabetes medication.

Medication for cardiovascular disease constitutes the largest proportion of prescriptions costs for people with diabetes.

Annual inpatient care, to treat short and long term complications of diabetes, is estimated at between £1,800 and £2,500 per patient

This compares with annual outpatient costs, which includes the cost of medications and monitoring supplies, estimated at between £300 and £370 per patient

Cost of absenteeism, early retirement and social benefits

The following annual costs result from diabetes:

  • Cost of absenteeism: £8.4 billion per year
  • Cost of early retirement: £6.9 billion per year
  • Cost of social benefits: £0.152 billion

Treatment costs risen by 56%

A report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre entitled Prescribing for Diabetes in England 2005/06 to 2013/14 reported that over the last 8 years, the cost of drugs and treatments alone in order to treat people with diabetes had risen by 56.3% from £513.9 million in 2005/6 to £803.1 million in 2013/14. [4]

The cost of diabetes treatments remain a small fraction of the total costs of diabetes.

Metformin and insulin usage

The total cost of metformin for the NHS has risen from £37 million in 2005/6 to £81 million in 2013/14.

Metformin is the most widely prescribed diabetes drug but as metformin is relatively cheap, the total cost of prescriptions is less than some drug classes such as insulin.

In addition, the cost of insulin prescriptions rose from £221 million to £328 million in the same timeframe.

The primary cause of this, according to the report is the higher cost of analogue insulin

Blood glucose monitoring

The report also stated that there has been a 21% increase in the total cost of blood glucose monitoring supplies since 2005/6.

The annual cost of blood glucose testing supplies for the NHS stands at £172 million, representing 1% of the total spend on diabetes and its complications.

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