Dispensing patterns and financial costs of glucose-lowering therapies in the UK from 2000 to 2008*


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    2 of 4 papers in a series addressing cost and resource of diabetes in the United Kingdom.

Dr Craig J. Currie, Reader in Diabetes Pharmacoepidemiology, School of Medicine, Cardiff University, The Pharma Research Centre, Cardiff MediCentre, Cardiff CF14 4UJ, UK. E-mail: currie@cardiff.ac.uk


Diabet. Med. 27, 744–752 (2010)


Introduction  A variety of influences determine prescribing behaviour. The purpose of this study was to characterize the pattern of dispensing for glucose-lowering and monitoring in the UK from 2000 to 2008, inclusively.

Methods  Open source data were used from the four UK prescription pricing agencies. Historical patterns of dispensing change were analysed in England, thus data are for England unless otherwise stated. Costs were adjusted for price inflation and reported in UK£ at 2008 prices.

Results  The total cost in the UK in 2008 was £702 239 000: £22 897 000 (3.2%) for Northern Ireland, £37 681 000 (5.3%) for Wales, £57 146 000 (8.1%) for Scotland and £590 514 000 (83.4%) for England. As a per cent of the overall primary care drug budget for each region, this represented 6.9% overall and then 5.8, 6.5, 5.9 and 7.1%, respectively. In England, diabetes-related dispensing costs increased from £290m to £591m. All glucose-lowering drug classes increased in volume, except the α-glucoside inhibitors and the prandial glucose regulators. Insulin costs increased from £128m to £286m. Insulin glargine metrics increased year-on-year, whereas neutral protamine Hagedorn (NPH) declined. Analogue insulin increased (2.6 million to 33.9 million prescription items), whereas human insulin declined (21.0 million to 10.3 million).

Discussion  The costs of dispensing for diabetes increased markedly between 2000 and 2008 to represent an annual cost to the NHS of £708m, or 7% of budget. Costs increased at a higher rate than volume. Changes in prescribing appeared to reflect commercial factors more than clinical evidence. Diabetes dispensing patterns need to be better controlled and costs contained.