NHS has 'wasted' $976 million on synthetic insulin in past decade

The NHS has stumped up an extra £625 million over the past decade on synthetic forms of insulin, when the recommended human alternatives— which are considerably cheaper— would have probably been just as effective, reveals research published online in BMJ Open.

The finding comes as a UN health summit in New York this week debates how to step up international efforts to tackle the rising global burden of non-communicable diseases, including diabetes.

The authors base their findings on an analysis of publicly available data from the four UK prescription pricing agencies for the years 2000 to 2009. Costs were adjusted for inflation and reported at 2010 prices.

Over the 10 years, the NHS spent a total of £2732 million on insulin, the annual cost rising from £156 million to £359 million—an increase of 130%.

The annual cost of synthetic (analogue) insulin rose from £18.2 million, or 12% of the total, to £305 million, or 85% of the total. The cost of human insulin fell from £131 million, or 84% of total, to £51 million, or 14% of the total.

On the assumption that all patients prescribed insulin analogues could have been prescribed human insulin instead, the NHS could have saved itself £625 million, say the authors.

But even if only half of those patients could have been switched, that's still more than £300 million of savings for the NHS, they say.

The number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has risen to 2.8 million, around 90% of whom have type 2 diabetes. Whereas those with type 1 disease require insulin from the get go, those with type 2 disease tend to be started on insulin later on.

Insulin analogues were developed to better mimic the actions of the insulin manufactured by the body, but it is not clear if the benefits are sufficient to justify their additional cost, say the authors.

"We know that the rise of insulin analogues has had a substantial financial impact on the NHS, yet over the same period there has been no observable clinical benefit to justify that investment," they conclude.

"It is likely that there was and is considerable scope for financial savings," they say, adding: "Most worryingly, the clinical role and safety of for use in people with type 2 diabetes is being questioned."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Insulin analogue glargine possibly increases cancer risk

Jun 26, 2009

The risk of cancer possibly increases if patients with diabetes use the long-acting insulin analogue glargine instead of human insulin. The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), in collaboration with ...

How does insulin influence resistin?

Jan 16, 2008

Obesity is a worldwide health problem directly linked to several diseases such as hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Resistin is a cysteine-rich hormone mainly secreted by adipose tissues and may form a biochemical link between ...

Recommended for you

Determine patient preferences by means of conjoint analysis

Jul 29, 2014

The Conjoint Analysis (CA) method is in principle suitable to find out which preferences patients have regarding treatment goals. However, to widely use it in health economic evaluations, some (primarily methodological) issues ...

FDA approves hard-to-abuse narcotic painkiller

Jul 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—A new formulation of a powerful narcotic painkiller that discourages potential abusers from snorting or injecting the drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Race affects opioid selection for cancer pain

Jul 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Racial disparities exist in the type of opioid prescribed for cancer pain, according to a study published online July 21 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

FDA approves tough-to-abuse formulation of oxycodone

Jul 25, 2014

(HealthDay)—Targiniq ER (oxycodone hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride extended release) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a long-term, around-the-clock treatment for severe ...

User comments