Cost of diabetes prescriptions in England rises 50% in six years

15 August 2012

Diabetes prescriptions have risen nearly 50% in six years and the net cost of diabetes drugs also rose by just under 50% in the same period, according to a report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) [1].

This growth is faster and greater than for prescriptions overall, where items increased by 33% and net ingredient cost rose by just under 11% in the same period.

The report, which focuses on primary care, shows diabetes drugs are taking up a bigger share of both total drugs dispensed and the total net cost to the NHS each year. It also shows that while the overall cost of all drugs to the NHS fell last year by just over 1%, the diabetes drugs bill increased by nearly 5%.

In 2011/12:

  • 40.6 million diabetes prescription items were dispensed in the community, a 6.1% (2.3 million items) rise on 2010/11 and a 49.9% (13.5 million items) rise on 2005/06;
  • Diabetes drugs accounted for a net ingredient cost of £760.3 million, a 4.8% (£35.2 million) rise on 2010/11 and a 47.9% (£246.3 million) rise on 2005/06;
  • Diabetes drugs accounted for 4.2% of all items dispensed and 8.9% of the total net ingredient cost bill, compared to 4.1% and 8.4% in 2010/11, and 3.7% and 6.6% in 2005/06;
  • Since 2007/08 diabetes drugs have accounted for the highest cost of any of the 200 sections listed within the British National Formulary, which categorises all prescribed drugs in England by section, based on therapeutic action. The diabetes section also saw the second highest rise in net ingredient cost of any section compared to 2010/11.

HSCIC chief executive Tim Straughan said: “Our figures show diabetes is having a growing impact on prescribing in a very obvious way — from the amount of prescriptions dispensed to patients in primary care to the annual drugs bill costs to the NHS.”

“Other reports we produce, such as our National Diabetes Audit and the Quality and Outcomes Framework, also demonstrate the impact of diabetes is widespread in all areas of the health service; from pharmacy to hospital care. When all this information is considered together, it presents a full and somewhat concerning picture of the increasing impact of this condition.”

More information

1. The report, Prescribing for Diabetes in England: 2005/06 to 2011/12, is available at:


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