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Diabetes prescriptions top 40m

Diabetes prescription numbers topped 40 million for the first time last year, according to official figures.

The number of diabetes prescriptions rose by nearly 50% in six years, from 27.1 million in 2005-06 to 40.6 million in 2011-12, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows.

Net cost of diabetes drugs also rose by just under 50% during the same period, according to the report Prescribing For Diabetes In England: 2005/6 to 2011/12. In 2005-06 diabetes drugs cost the NHS £514 million. Last year they cost £760.3 million.

The growth is much greater than the rise seen in prescription numbers overall, at 33%. Net ingredient cost increased by just under 11% in the same period, HSCIC said.

As a result, diabetes drugs take up a bigger share of both total drugs dispensed and the total net cost to the NHS each year. While the overall cost of drugs to the NHS fell last year by 1%, the diabetes drugs bill increased by nearly 5%.

Tim Straughan, HSCIC chief executive, said: "Our figures show diabetes is having a growing impact on prescribing in a very obvious way, from the amount of prescriptions dispensed to patients in primary care to the annual drugs bill costs to the NHS.

"Other reports we produce, such as our National Diabetes Audit and the Quality and Outcomes Framework, also demonstrate the impact of diabetes is widespread in all areas of the health service: from pharmacy to hospital care. When all this information is considered together, it presents a full and somewhat-concerning picture of the increasing impact of this condition."

Health minister Simon Burns said: "The number of people with diabetes has been rising for years, mainly because of an increase in the number of people who are obese due to a lack of exercise and unhealthy diets. That has obviously led to an increase in the number of people having diabetes drugs prescribed for them, but the rise in the cost of the diabetes drugs bill is also being driven by new more expensive medication, which is effective at helping diabetes sufferers.

"The rising cost of treating diabetes on the NHS shows why it is so important that we take urgent action to tackle the problems caused by obesity. That is why this Government has for the first time ring-fenced public health funding, making sure that it is spent on trying to prevent people from becoming obese in the first place.

"We know the risk of developing type 2 diabetes can be reduced by eating a healthy diet and increasing activity levels. That's why last year we launched a call to action to wipe five billion calories off the nation's waistline each day and through Change4Life we are encouraging everyone to eat less and move more."

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