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Glitazone costs surging ahead

Glitazones now make up a third of GP prescribing costs for oral diabetes drugs but only account for 5 per cent of prescriptions, latest figures reveal.

The drugs ­ deemed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence as unsuitable for first-line use in overweight type 2 diabetes patients ­ cost the NHS £7.2 million in the quarter to March this year and accounted for 32 per cent of the cost of all spending on oral anti-diabetics.

The Prescription Pricing Authority, which published the data last week, estimates pioglitazone (Actos from Takeda) and rosiglitazone (GlaxoSmithKline's Avandia) cost £36.96 and £39.90 for 28 days' treatment respectively ­ over 10 times more than metformin, NICE's current first-line choice for overweight type 2 diabetes sufferers.

Former Primary Care Diabetes UK head Dr Peter Tasker, a GP in King's Lynn, Norfolk, suspected there was 'quite a lot' of off-licence GP prescribing of glitazones because of their perceived beneficial effect on cardiovascular health. He called for more research on their use outside blood glucose control.

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