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Primary care diabetes prescribing costs NHS more than £1bn a year

Primary care prescribing of diabetes drugs took the cost over £1bn last year, accounting for over 11% of the total cost of prescribing in primary care, new figures from NHS Digital have revealed.

It is the first time diabetes prescribing in primary care has crossed the £1bn threshold, and is an increase on the £983.7m spent on diabetes drugs in 2016/17.

The latest NHS Digital statistics also found that 53 million items were prescribed for diabetes in 2017/18, one million more than the year before, and 22 million more than in 2007/08.

The report revealed that of the £8.9bn spent on primary care prescribing, £1.01bn (11.4%) was attributed to diabetes drugs.

Looking at quantity of items, it found that 5% of all 1.1 billion items prescribed in primary care were for drugs used in diabetes.

The document said: ‘Since 2007/08, “drugs used in diabetes” has accounted for the highest cost of any of the BNF sections listed.

‘The number of items prescribed in England has increased every year since 2007/08 – 53.4 million items were prescribed for diabetes in 2017/18, up from 52 million in 2016/17, and 30.8 million in 2007/08.’

Metformin remained the most commonly prescribed medication, but for the first time ‘other antidiabetic drugs’ were the second most commonly used. This group includes combinations with metformin, as well as the GLP-1 agonists and SGLT2 inhibitors.

The cost and number of items prescribed has risen in accordance with QOF-reported diabetes prevalence, with almost 3.2 million patients on the diabetes QOF register this year, up from just over 3.1 million in 2016/17.