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Too much spent on diabetes drugs

Too much is being spent by the NHS on diabetes drugs, researchers have claimed.

The call was made after it was found that the medicines swallow up 7% of the UK prescribing budget.

The team at Cardiff University said that even though the number of people with type 2 diabetes has risen sharply, it does not explain the soaring costs.

The research, published in the Clinical Pharmacist journal, prompted the NHS to get to grips with the budget at a time when rates of the condition are expected to rise further.

However, GPs said their priority must be their patients - and what is best for them.

A total of £700m was spent by the NHS in 2008 on drugs to control blood sugar, figures showed.

The number of prescriptions for glucose-lowering drugs between 2000 and 2008 soared by 50% with costs rising by 104%, the researchers claimed.

They said figures for England over the study period showed a leap from £290m to £591m.

They attributed the costs to a rise in the use of the most expensive therapies. They said that newer drugs, such as rosiglitazone, contributed to the increased costs, as well as a rise in the use of insulin, the hormone used to control blood sugar levels in the body.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Cardiff University

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Part of the rise in the costs is the QoF - payments for QoF depend on HbA1C results - and if diet, lifestyle and less costly drugs, eg, metformin do not bring the HbA1C down to the levels the QoF asks for, then GPs are going to add more and more meds to bring the glucose levels down so they can claim their money. In our area testing strips are not given until they
are on glicazide or on insulin - all to keep the costs down" - Elaine K, Newcastle

"They seem to be behind the times, rosiglitazone is not a new drug and has fallen out of favour since the bad press it received a couple of years ago. Surely it is better to treat appropriately and keep blood sugars controlled as this will have a knock-on effect for costs later on as the reduction in complications will save the NHS money. Again, they cannot see
the big picture and that most diabetes specialists are in it for the long haul and want the best for their patients. The legacy effect reported by the UKPDS follow-up study should encourage us to treat early and appropriately" - Lindsay Smith, Scotland

"Is it not better to try and understand the reasons for the rise in diabetes and see how it can be prevented rather than moan about its treatment" - Isaiah Ayhok, Manchester

"What this report does not take into account is that the total cost of diabetes (for the UK) per year is around £9 billion, the majority of this is actually spent on complications rather than diabetes drugs. The evidence supports getting good control in terms of lipids, glucose and blood pressure and this in the long term will reduce the cost of complications, ultimately reducing the cost of diabetes in the long term" - Veronica Green, London 

"Can we question the reasons behind the high rising in diabetes. Regarding the recent reports on overspending, this is neither here or there yet there is a large amount of people who is unaware of the condition. There is the need for further campaign for this silent killer disease and awareness to the public. A large amount of money is spent on cancer, smoking and alcohol, and not enough is spent on diabetes" - F Davis, London

"I was wondering if blood glucose testing strips was considered when referring to the increased cost of diabetes drugs? These are also supplied on prescription and I would expect that this would be a significant cost measure in the overall calculation of costing diabetes prescriptions. I was disappointed that there was no reference to this as excessive or over-testing of blood sugars has driven up the use of test strips and one can
assume that this increases cost" - Kathy McSharry, Ireland