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Diabetes care and prevention push must be a ‘key priority’ as drug prescription rates soar

Diabetes drug prescriptions have increased by 16 million since 2015/16, a new report from NHS Business Services has found

In light of this increase, diabetes care and prevention must be a ‘key priority’ for the government, according to Helen Kirrane, head of policy, campaigns and mobilisation at Diabetes UK.

The increased investment on diabetes medication ‘should come as no surprise’ said Ms Kirrane, considering that ‘the prevalence of diabetes is on the rise and the cost of treatments are increasing.’

The report found that there were 66 million drug items used in treating diabetes prescribed in England in the year 2022/23. This is an increase of 16 million since the last NHS Business Service report in 2015/16.

Ms Kirrane said: ‘These essential medications help people with diabetes manage their condition and reduce the risk of developing devastating diabetes-related complications, such as sight-loss, limb and organ damage, and even early death.’

The total cost of the prescribing was £1.53 billion, amounting to 15% of the total spend on all prescription items prescribed in England. This is up from 10% in the 2015/16 report.

Antidiabetic drugs were the most prescribed drugs used in treating diabetes in England in 2022/23 with 49 million items at a cost of £880 million.

The report also pointed to the broad health inequalities evidenced by a higher prevalence of  diabetes prescription in deprived areas. There were 320,000 more patients receiving prescriptions in the most deprived areas of the country compared to the least deprived.

By ensuring that diabetes care and prevention is a ‘key priority’ for government policy, these health inequalities will be challenged, according to Ms Kirrane.

‘There are now more than five million people living with diabetes in the UK and we want the Government to make diabetes care, and the prevention of type 2 diabetes, a key priority. This should include tackling health inequalities and drastically improving the supply of GLP-1 medicine into the NHS.’