New research by EXASOL discovers that type 2 diabetes prescriptions have risen by one third in five years

10 Oct 2016 | Share

The research shows that England will reach FIVE million type 2 diabetes diagnoses in 2020, five years sooner than previously thought (1)

Nuremberg, Germany, 10 October 2016: EXASOL, provider of the world’s fastest in-memory analytic database, today released the most in-depth analysis ever carried out into type 2 diabetes medication prescribing in England.

EXASOL analyzed 713 million rows of data released by the Government’s NHS Digital and sourced from the NHS Business Services Authority (2). The data captures every GP prescription dispensed at all pharmacies across England and runs for 6 years from August 2010 through to July 2016. The data was analyzed by data scientists at EXASOL, using the world’s fastest in-memory analytic database.

The research findings include:

  • Over the past five years, the number of prescriptions of type 2 diabetes medication has risen by one third (33%). In 2011, there were 26 million prescriptions, this rose to 35 million prescriptions in 2015.
  • In the first six months of 2016 the number of prescriptions of type 2 diabetes medications was already up by more than 8% compared to the same period the year before.
  • At the beginning of 2016, 3.5 million adults were believed to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the UK (3) – current trends of prescribing indicate England will have FIVE million people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2020, five years sooner than previously reported.

EXASOL found large variations in prescribing across England:

  • The London district of Newham has the highest prescribing rates in the country, over double the national average. London boroughs have three of highest prescribing districts (Newham, Tower Hamlets, Harrow)
  • Lincolnshire has two of the top three highest prescribing rates (East Lindsey, South Holland).
  • There is a huge variation across the country. The first ever heatmap for this type of analysis shows the disparity across the country. The red areas show high prescribing centred around the East Midlands, with hot spots in areas of London. The heatmap is available on request.

An escalating problem: Usage of second-line drugs doubles

Compounding the headline figure of a 33% increase in overall diabetes prescribing, it has been found that the use of Sitagliptin, a popular second-line drug, has doubled in the five years to 2015 from over 96 thousand prescriptions to over 192 thousand.

Looking at these individual drugs, the research found:

  • Over half of all prescriptions are for Metformin. The drug helps type 2 diabetics respond better to their own insulin, lowering the amount of sugar created by the liver, and decreasing the amount of sugar absorbed by the intestines.
  • Around a quarter of prescriptions are for Gliclazide. Gliclazide works by increasing the amount of insulin that your pancreas produces.
  • Sitagliptin is a second-line drug, used when a combination of diet/exercise and Metformin fails. Most concerning is that prescriptions of these therapies have doubled in the five years to 2015

Sean Jackson, chief marketing officer (CMO), EXASOL says: “When analyzing the data, we can see the proof that diabetes prescribing has increased drastically over the past five years. However, this is only one part of the story: when we delve deeper, we find that data can uncover more information such as the geographic differences across the country and the large increase in prescribing of second line drugs.”

“With the right data and the right technology, you can turn any problem into a data problem and uncover information to help address it. Type-2 diabetes is an enormous threat and by uncovering insights using big data shows the factual reality of the problem and steps can begin to be taken to reduce the threat. To analyze such enormous datasets fast, returning answers from the data within seconds, requires the right tool and we hope the findings help to further reduce this serious issue.”

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Notes to editors:

1 Five million estimate: Original five million estimate came from a widely quoted APHO 2010 model estimating that by 2025 there will be 4,189,229 million people with diabetes in England, 371,310 people in Scotland, 287,929 people in Wales and an estimated 109,000 Northern Ireland.

2 Lists of datasets used: Prescribing data from – a list of all prescriptions given by GPs and subsequently dispensed in England (More than 5 years – from August 2010 to December 2015). This is the largest dataset, amounts to about 713 million rows or around 100 GB of uncompressed data. The data is grouped by month, roughly 1 million prescriptions per month.

Practice codes, names and addresses – – a lookup for the addresses of the practices listed above. In total 9,897 practices are listed (England only).

Numbers of Patients Registered at a GP Practice – gives a breakdown of the patients registered with each practice by age, sex, LSOA** (lower level super output area – small geographic areas with a maximum population of 1000).

** LSOA: Lower Layer Super Output Areas are built from groups of contiguous Output Areas and have been automatically generated to be as consistent in population size as possible, and typically contain from four to six Output Areas. The Minimum population is 1000 and the mean is 1500. There is a Lower Layer Super Output Area for each POSTCODE in England.

3 Diabetes UK: “There are now 4.05 million people with the condition in the UK, which includes 3.5 million adults who have been diagnosed.”