New figures reveal the massive cost of medication for type 2 diabetes

by Barbara Hewitt on August 19, 2014

The cost of type 2 diabetes has been laid bare, with new figures showing that in England alone, prescription drugs for the condition cost more than £2.2 million every day.

That is roughly 10% of the National Health Services’ entire drugs budget and in less than a decade, the number of prescriptions for the treatment of diabetes has risen by 66.5%.


Last year, more than 45 million prescription items were given out in the UK for diabetes treatment

The figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) are likely to be similar in other countries where the precedence of type 2 diabetes is soaring and according to experts is a reminder of just how costly treatment is becoming.

Last year, more than 45 million prescription items, including insulin, anti-diabetic drugs as well as monitoring devices for the condition, were handed out to patients in England, an 18 million rise in the number prescribed in 2005/2006.

The HSCIC said that this equates to an average of 123,610 items every single day. It also found that prescriptions given out by GPs to manage diabetes cost the NHS £2.2 million, on average, every day in 2013/2014.

‘This brings to light the rising costs for managing diabetes in primary care. Diabetes continues to be one of the most prevalent life threatening conditions in England and now accounts for almost 10% of the drugs bill. Our latest data highlights the growing implications to the NHS and patients of managing this condition,’ said HSCIC chairman Kingsley Manning.

Local councils, which are in charge of public health in their areas, have now called on MPs to reinvest some money earned from taxing sugary foods and drinks into activity and weight management programmes to help combat the rise of type 2 diabetes.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents around 400 councils in England and Wales, said the money would be a massive boost to combating obesity, which is a leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

‘The sheer numbers of people with diabetes shows the very real need to help more of the population improve their diets and lead healthy lifestyles. Diabetes has a significant personal cost to those afflicted and a huge financial cost to the NHS, the adult social care system and the economy,’ said Jonathan McShane, of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

‘This is why the LGA is calling for whichever political party makes up the next government to reinvest a small percentage of the VAT received by the Treasury from the sale of sugary foods and drinks into locally-run activity and weight management programmes,’ he explained.

‘This extra money would be a massive boost in the battle to combat obesity and diabetes and has the potential to improve lives and save the public purse many billions of pounds,’ he added.

According to Simon O’Neill, director of health intelligence at the charity Diabetes UK, the figures reflect the growing scale of diabetes and the fact that the condition is leading to huge costs to the NHS.

‘The dramatic increase in cases of type 2 diabetes which we have seen in current years is a huge factor in this spending which overall costs the NHS £10 billion a year. So if the government wants to reduce this enormous cost, and we can’t understand why it wouldn’t, we need to see it intervening to ensure that the rise of cases is stemmed,’ he said.

‘One way of doing this is through the already established, but poorly implemented, NHS Health Check programme which has the potential to identify people at high risk of type 2 diabetes and give them the vital support they need to reduce their risk of developing the condition,’ he pointed out.

‘We must remember that medication such as insulin is an essential treatment for people with diabetes to enable them to effectively manage their condition, reduce their risk of devastating complications and ultimately stay alive,’ he added.

The number of people with diabetes is rising throughout the UK, and though the new figures only relate to England, it is likely that similar high rates of are now taking place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well. It is estimated that there are now 3.2m people living with diabetes in the UK – around five per cent of the entire population.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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