Drugs to treat people with diabetes now take up almost a tenth of the entire NHS budget for medicine, new data released by the service’s information division shows.
Diabetes medication cost the NHS £725m in 2010-11 - an 8.4 per cent slice of the overall budget.
This is a significant jump on figures from 2005-06, when diabetes drugs accounted for 6.6 per cent of the overall medicine budget.
Compared with the amount spent in 2005-06, an extra 41 per cent was spent on the drugs in 2010-11.
The disease now accounts for one in every 25 prescriptions in England, the NHS Information Centre said.
The UK has about 2.5 million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and an estimated 850,000 people are believed to have the disease without knowing it.
NHS Information Centre chief executive Tim Straughan said: “This information will help people and health professionals see the impact that caring for diabetes has on NHS prescribing, and support the NHS in planning for how to best address the condition moving forward.”
Bridget Turner, head of policy and care improvement at Diabetes UK, said: “This report reinforces that diabetes is one of the biggest health challenges this country faces.
“Increasing diabetes prevalence has largely caused this rise in cost and numbers of prescriptions.
“Diabetes UK believes that people should have access to the most appropriate treatment to manage their diabetes and reduce the risk of devastating complications.
“The long-term costs of poor diabetes management, such as caring for someone who’s had a heart attack or stroke, lost their sight or lower limb, far outweigh those of the drugs that help prevent such complications.
“Investment in education, support and improving access to reduce variations of care will empower people to effectively self-manage their condition.
“This will tackle the spiralling rates and costs of diabetes and help those diagnosed with the condition stay healthy.”
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “The number of people being diagnosed with diabetes is increasing and this continues to cause a rise in spending on drugs prescribed to manage the condition.
“However, the continued upward trend is not down to rising cases alone and a number of factors need to be considered such as increased access to new and more effective medicines and the move towards prescribing medicines preventatively.
“We are working with the NHS to help prevent people from developing diabetes and to identify people with diabetes sooner so that complications of the disease can be delayed or prevented.”