Diabetes prescribing rises by a third over five years

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 10 October 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i5484
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. London

The number of prescriptions for drugs that treat type 2 diabetes that were dispensed by pharmacies in England has risen by one third (33%) in five years, according to research carried out by analytic database provider EXASOL.

The researchers analysed a government dataset which included every prescription handed out by pharmacies since 2010, and found that in 2011 26 million type 2 diabetes drug prescriptions were dispensed, rising to 35 million in 2015.

Prescriptions for drugs to treat type 2 diabetes, 2011

The number of prescriptions has continued to increase. In the first six months of 2016 the number of prescriptions dispensed for type 2 diabetes medications was 8% higher than during the same period in 2015.

When prescribing trends for individual drugs are looked at, the data show that over half of all prescriptions were for metformin, which helps patients with type 2 diabetes respond better to their own insulin, lowering the amount of sugar created by the liver and decreasing the amount of sugar absorbed by the intestines. Around a quarter of prescriptions were for gliclazide, which works by increasing the amount of insulin that the pancreas produces.

The data also show that the use of sitagliptin, a second line drug used when a combination of diet, exercise, and metformin fails, has doubled in the five years to 2015, from around 96 000 prescriptions to over 192 000.

EXASOL has matched the prescribing data with population data to show the variations in prescribing levels of type 2 drugs across England to create a heat map. This shows particularly high prescribing levels around the East Midlands, with hot spots in areas of London, including Tower Hamlets and Harrow. The London borough of Newham has the highest prescribing rate in the country.

Prescriptions for drugs to treat type 2 diabetes, 2015

Sean Jackson, chief marketing officer of EXASOL said, “Type 2 diabetes is an enormous threat and uncovering insights using big data shows the reality of the problem.”

At the beginning of 2016, 3.5 million adults were believed to have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK. The researchers said that if current prescribing trends continued, there would be five million people with type 2 diabetes by 2020.

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