Diabetes prescription numbers topped 40 million for the first time last year, according to official figures.
The number of diabetes prescriptions rose by nearly 50% in six years, from 27.1m in 2005-06 to 40.6m in 2011-12, data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) shows.
Net cost of diabetes drugs also rose by just under 50% during the same period, according to the report Prescribing For Diabetes In England: 2005-06 to 2011-12.
In 2005-06 diabetes drugs cost the NHS £514m. Last year they cost £760.3m.
The growth is much greater than the rise seen in prescription numbers overall, at 33%. Net ingredient cost increased by just under 11% in the same period, HSCIC said.
As a result, diabetes drugs take up a bigger share of both total drugs dispensed and the total net cost to the NHS each year.
While the overall cost of drugs to the NHS fell last year by 1%, the diabetes drugs bill increased by nearly 5%.
Tim Straughan, HSCIC chief executive, said: “Our figures show diabetes is having a growing impact on prescribing in a very obvious way, from the amount of prescriptions dispensed to patients in primary care to the annual drugs bill costs to the NHS.
“Other reports we produce, such as our National Diabetes Audit and the Quality and Outcomes Framework, also demonstrate the impact of diabetes is widespread in all areas of the health service: from pharmacy to hospital care.
“When all this information is considered together, it presents a full and somewhat-concerning picture of the increasing impact of this condition.”
Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK, said: “This report shows that spending on diabetes-related medicines is rising and one of the main reasons for this increase is that there are now more people with diabetes.
“This is why we need to grasp the nettle on preventing type 2 diabetes, which accounts for around 90% of diabetes cases. We need a government-funded awareness raising campaign on the risk factors and symptoms of type 2 diabetes and we need to get much better at identifying people at high risk so they can be given the support they need to prevent the condition.”