A new study has revealed that soaring rates of obesity-linked diabetes have led to a threefold increase in the number of people using insulin in the UK.
After examining data from patient prescriptions to estimate the prevalence of insulin use in the UK population, researchers found that the number of insulin users across the country rose from 136,800 in 1991 to 421,300 in 2010.
The biggest increase was seen in people with type 2 diabetes, which is strongly associated with obesity and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Among this group, the number taking insulin soared from 37,000 to a staggering 277,400 over the 20-year period.
As a result, there are now more individuals with type 2 diabetes on insulin than there are type 1 diabetics (134,900), with whom insulin treatment is more commonly associated with.
In addition to growing demand from people with type 2, the researchers from Cardiff University and the University of Bristol said the huge rise in insulin use was also due to the release of more costly types of insulin.
Craig Currie, professor of applied pharmacoepidemiology at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, said: “Given the limitations, our study sought to calculate – for the first time – the best possible estimate of the rates of insulin for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”
“We found that the number of people injecting insulin in the UK increased three-fold over the 20-year period from 1991 to 2010.”
“Also during this period there was more than a seven-fold increase in the number of those with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and treated with insulin. Most of this is unrelated to clinical need. Insulin is very expensive and some of us believe that it involves too many serious side effects in people with type 2 diabetes.”
He added: “The increase in the number of people with type 2 diabetes using insulin is a wake-up call for all – not only in terms of lifestyle choices and how we treat people with type 2 diabetes.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.

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