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NHS spend millions on designer drugs

22nd September 2011

A study has suggested that doctors wasted millions on “designer” diabetes drugs when cheaper alternatives would have been just as effective.

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Writing online in BMJ Open, the research team from Cardiff University claims the NHS could have saved £625m over 10 years if the older types of insulin recommended in guidelines had been prescribed.

Instead, it found, the NHS spent £2.73bn on insulin, mainly on “designer” forms.

NHS spending on insulin prescriptions in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland rose from £156m a year in 2000 to £359m in 2009 and over that time annual NHS spending on “designer” insulin increased from £18m (12% of total insulin cost) to £305m (85% of total insulin).

Professor Craig Currie of the Department of Primary Care and Public Health said: “The regulatory agencies have to get a grip of the way that medicines are chosen and dispensed.”

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that ordinary human insulins are used as a first-line treatment, with “designer” insulins reserved for exceptional circumstances.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The National Prescribing Centre advises that newer synthetic insulins have a role in treating some patients, but people with glycaemic control problems should be properly assessed for underlying causes before these newer, more expensive insulins are considered.”

Simon O’Neill, Director of Care, Information and Advocacy at Diabetes UK, said: “The decision of which insulin is the most appropriate for a person with diabetes should be made on an individual basis in consultation with the person with diabetes themselves.”

 

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