Trends in the prescription and cost of diabetic medications and monitoring equipment in England 1991–2004

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BackgroundTo report the trend in prescriptions and cost of antidiabetic drugs and glucose monitoring equipment in England from 1991 to 2004.MethodsWe analysed data on all community antidiabetic drug prescriptions in England collated from the Prescription Cost Analysis system.ResultsThe total number of diabetes prescriptions (medicines and monitoring) rose from 7613000 (1991) to 24325640 (2004) (>300% increase). Meanwhile, total costs increased by 650%. Insulins are the biggest contributor to cost followed by monitoring equipment and then oral medications. Three times as many items of oral tablets are prescribed than insulins. Metformin accounts for 40% of all diabetic drug dispensations but only 7% of the costs. More is spent on glitazones now than on either metformin or sulphonylureas.ConclusionsThere has been a substantial increase in the cost of managing diabetes in the community. Costs are likely to continue to rise in the future, as the prevalence of diabetes increases and through more aggressive identification and management of patients with diabetes in the hope of reducing the even more costly complications. The cost implications of glucose monitoring merits further study.

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