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The NHS Information Centre

News & Views


Diabetes prescriptions now account for 8.4% of the entire NHS net bill for primary care drugs in England, according to a recent report from the NHS Information Centre.1

The percentage increase in the total cost of prescriptions for the condition was four times that in prescription cost overall between 2005/6 and 2010/11 – taking the cost of diabetes prescribing to £725 million in 2010/11.

Prescribing for Diabetes; England, 2005/06 – 2010/11, also shows that in the same period the number of diabetes prescription items increased by 41% to reach 38.3 million items – meaning that one in every 25 prescription items written is now for diabetes.

The report examines prescribing trends between 2005/06 and 2010/11 for medicines used in the treatment of diabetes, and shows that in primary care in England, in 2010/11:

*   Diabetes prescribing accounted for 8.4% of the entire NHS net prescription bill; compared to 6.6% in 2005/06.

*   The total net ingredient cost of diabetes prescriptions was £725 million; a 41.1% (£211 million) rise on 2005/06 (£513 million). This compares to a 10.6% increase in the drugs bill overall.

*   The total number of prescription items dispensed to treat diabetes was 38.3 million, a 7.8% rise on the previous year (2.8 million) and a 41.2% rise on 2005/06 (27.1 million).

*   The section covering diabetes drugs within the British National Formulary (BNF) carried the highest cost of any section; and also saw the biggest annual rise in cost of any section on 2009/10.

The report also shows that about two in three prescription items dispensed for diabetes are anti-diabetic drugs (25.9 million items), which help control the body’s own production and use of insulin. The second biggest group of items prescribed are insulins; which a patient injects when their body cannot produce a sufficient amount of insulin on its own.

NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: “Today’s report paints a picture of an ever–increasing drugs bill to cope with the demands of society triggered by diabetes. The portion of the NHS drugs bill accounted for by diabetes drugs continues to rise and is now at 8.4%.

“This information will help people and health professionals see the impact that caring for diabetes has on NHS prescribing; and support the NHS in planning for how to best address the condition moving forward.”


1 The NHS Information Centre.  Prescribing for Diabetes in England 2005/06 to 2010/11.  NHS 2011 (Available from:

Published on: September 7, 2011

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