The use of insulin to treat type 2 diabetes has tripled in the United Kingdom over the last 20 years, a new study reveals.
“Understanding the pattern of insulin use is limited by a lack of data characterizing the prevalence of insulin use in the UK,” says Craig Currie, professor of applied pharmacoepidemiology at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine, who led the study alongside colleagues from the University of Bristol.
“Given the limitations, our study sought to calculate—for the first time—the best possible estimate of the rates of insulin for type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”
In this retrospective study published in the Journal of Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism, the team examined the number of patients receiving prescriptions for insulin between 1991 and 2010.
The study found that the number of people using insulin tripled between 1991 and 2010, largely due to a large increase in the number of people with type 2 diabetes.
It estimates that the number of insulin users in the UK increased from 136,800 in 1991 to 421,300 in 2010.
Type 2 rates soaring
The study also found that the number of people receiving prescriptions for insulin for type 2 diabetes during the same period overtook the number of people with type 1 diabetes.
In 1991, more people using insulin had type 1 diabetes than had type 2 diabetes, however, by 2010 this situation had reversed with the total number of people with type 2 diabetes injecting insulin increased from 37,000 in 1991 to 277,400 in 2010.
“As a result of the study, we found that the number of people injecting insulin in the UK increased three-fold over the 20-year period from 1991 to 2010,” Currie adds.
“Also during this period there was more than a seven-fold increase in the number of those with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and treated with insulin. Most of this is unrelated to clinical need. Insulin is very expensive and some of us believe that it involves too many serious side effects in people with type 2 diabetes.”
While the study strikes a note of caution with its findings, most notably with early stages of the timescales of the reporting being less well recorded, the study does give a clear indication that the number of people with type 2 diabetes using insulin has risen sharply.
Source: Cardiff University