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Big rise in insulin analogues use

Use of human insulin analogues is increasing rapidly despite little evidence that they out perform cheaper insulins in controlling blood glucose, according to a new report.

The analysis by the Information Centre into prescribing for diabetes found that insulin glargine, produced synthetically using recombinant DNA technology, had replaced isophane insulin as the most commonly prescribed insulin.

Overall, the number of prescription items has increased by 55% in the past 5 years, with an increase in cost of 88%.

The use of human derived insulins has been the main factor for the huge increase in cost. The total cost of glargine prescriptons has spiralled from £2 million in March 2003 to over £14 million in March 2007. Isophane insulin costs have dropped from just over £6 million to under £4 million in the same period.

Dr Mark Browne, a GP in Derby and diabetes lead for Derby City PCT, said: ‘Especially for type 2 diabetes some of the more traditional insulins are very useful and probably ought to be used as a first-line treatment.'

But he added: ‘In diabetes when you're managing patients you need to find the right drug for the right patient. Human insulins are more flexible. If you tailor the regime to suit the lifestyle of the patient you get better control.'

On the question of cost he said: ‘When it comes down to overall costs, no one has told me what the added cost of hypos because of old style insulins are, for example in hospital admissions. More work needs to be done.'

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