10 per cent of the NHS’s drugs bill in England is spent on diabetes medication, according to new figures.”
The report, from The Health and Social Care Information Centre, found that the NHS spent a combined £869m on drugs for type 1 and type 2 diabetes last year. Ten years ago, diabetes medication accounted for only 6.6 per cent of the NHS drugs bill – a total of £514m.
That said, the two types of diabetes often have very different treatments, and therefore incur different costs. The figures are somewhat skewed by conflating the costs of two diseases that in most cases are treated in different ways.
Neither does the report define how many diabetes drugs are prescribed for prediabetes – in other words, for patients who do not yet actually have diabetes.
Prediabetes, a label used to describe people at high risk of type 2 diabetes, is controversial: a study published last July described it as “unhelpful and unnecessary,” and criticised the practice of prescribing anti-diabetes drugs to people with prediabetes, despite there being “no evidence of long-term benefits to starting the treatment early.”
Reports such as these, despite sounding negative, can trigger positive responses from government to improve support for people with type 2 diabetes, and people at risk of type 2 diabetes. Many cases of type 2 diabetes – although by no means all – are preventable through lifestyle changes.
The report’s authors explained that their findings illustrate the significance of diabetes rates in the UK.
“It shows that 10p in the pound of the primary care prescribing bill in England is being spent on managing diabetes,” said Ian Bullard, the report’s author.
“Diabetes continues to be one of the most prevalent long-term conditions, and the number of patients being diagnosed with the condition is increasing each year.”

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