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Human analogue insulins 'driving up diabetes drugs bill'

Increasing use of newer diabetes medicines – including human analogue insulins - is driving up the cost of diabetes care, new NHS figures show.

Data on primary care prescribing published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows that 42.5m items were prescribed for diabetes in the financial year 2012/13 at a net ingredient cost of £764.1m.

This was a 4.7% (1.9m) rise in the number of items - from 40.6 million in 2011/12 - and a 0.5% (£3.8m) rise in the net ingredient cost, from £760.3m in 2011/12.

By comparison, overall prescribing costs fell by 3.9% between 2011/12 and 2012/13, the report said.

The which covers prescribing by GPs, nurses, pharmacists and others working in primary care said: ‘These trends are driven by a number of factors, including the increasing prevalence of diabetes, greater use of newer and more expensive medicines, particularly human analogue insulins and more recently introduced oral antidiabetic drugs, and changes in the costs of category M medicines and Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme.’

The new data follow research in 2011 suggesting the NHS could have saved up to £625m by using human insulin more widely.

The UK authors of a called for GPs to consider switching patients with with type 2 diabetes from synthetic insulin saying synthetic insulin had become increasingly popular due to successful marketing campaigns and despite it being more expensive and only having ‘modest benefits’ over human insulin.

Readers' comments (3)

  • As a type1 diabetic I speak from experience. Analogue insulins allow me better control and most importantly after 41 years of living with diabetes I still get warning signs of hypos. I experimented by changing back to human insulins and lost all warning signs.Needless to say I changed back to analogues. Do not assume its a simple change for your diabetes patients to save money.

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  • Less 'minor' hypos (the ones that don't need the paramedics), less weight gain and less need to test to check what the erratic absorption is doing might seem like minor benefits to the pen pushers. But in the real world they're not. Also the studies that are being used to justify this excluded older adults, for whom even a 'minor' hypo can cause a disastrous fall.

    "Sometimes you spend so long looking at the big picture you forget what it means to be human"

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  • Sometimes progress costs, these synthetic insulins are better tolerated. this is an area where quality of life has been improved by the pharmacological industry and we need to resist the calls to save pennies and disrupt lives.

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