Diabetes drugs now account for almost a tenth of the overall annual NHS drugs bill with some £727m spent in 2010/11, official statistics show.
In the past year, diabetes drug prescriptions have shot up to account for 8.4% of the total cost of prescribing – up from 6.6% in 2005/6, said figures from the NHS Information Centre data.
'Drugs for diabetes' is the British National Formulary section of highest cost and greatest increase of cost in primary care in England during the past year.
Bridget Turner, from Diabetes UK, told the BBC that while the figures seemed high, the use of such drugs helped to prevent even more serious problems developing.
"This report reinforces that diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges this country faces.
"The long-term costs of poor diabetes management, such as caring for someone who's had a heart attack or stroke, lost their sight or lower limb, far outweigh those of the drugs that help prevent such complications."
In 2010/11 there were 38.3 million items prescribed for diabetes. Following NICE's recommendation, oral antidiabetic metformin rose usage from 8.6 million items in 2005/6 to 14.6 million items in 2010/11.
Diabetes prevalence in England increased from 3.6% in 2005/6 to 4.3% in 2009/10.
"Probably requires a little more analysis on the types of drugs used - injectable incretins are expensive but can be very effective and you get more bangs per buck for these drugs in terms of improved glycaemic control, weight loss and beta cell function. Drugs section in BNF includes strips for monitoring which have been over-prescribed of course with often little proven benefit for patients. Encouraging that metformin use has increased as clinically effective and very economic drug. We should still make sure our patients are taking (and tolerating) the drugs and taking them correctly to get the best from them plus support them to make and maintain lifestyle changes" - Phil Holdich, University of Huddersfield