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Saturday, August 27, 2011

NHS is spending almost 10% of its drugs budget on diabetes management treatments

By Dylan Juke

In the last 5 years, the number of people suffering from diabetes in the UK has jumped 20% to 2.3 million. Experts also believe there may be a further 800,000 or more undiagnosed cases. Type 2 diabetes is linked to obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.

The NHS Information Centre has released new figures detailing the money spent by the health service on drugs, and the data shows that 8.4% of the total bill went on diabetes medication in 2010-11, compared with 6.6% 5 years ago. The actual expenditure has risen from 513 million to 725 million.

Currently, 4% of all prescriptions dispensed by the NHS are for people with diabetes. Many sufferers take a mixture of different drugs in an effort to manage their blood sugar levels. Two thirds of diabetes prescriptions are drugs that regulate insulin production - insulin is essential for keeping blood sugar levels at a healthy level. After that, the most frequently prescribed drugs are injectable insulins, which are essential for patients whose pancreas is unable to produce sufficient amounts of the hormone.

Bridget Turner, from charity Diabetes UK, accepted that many people may look at the cost of diabetes treatment with a degree of incredulity, but argued that if money isn't spent on diabetes drugs known to help prevent life-threatening complications like heart attacks and strokes, the cost of treating patients with such complications would be even higher. She said it was important to recognise that diabetes is "one of the biggest health challenges this country faces."

The Department of Health said that the rising cost of diabetes treatment was due to a combination of the increase in the number of people with the condition, the development of new, more effective drugs, and doctors adopting a more preventative approach to prescribing medication.

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