‘Elderly people are routinely being given diabetes drugs they do not need thanks to an incentive scheme which rewards GPs for prescribing pills, experts have warned.
This ‘overtreatment’ is putting already-frail people at risk of falls, cognitive impairment and dementia, diabetes specialists said.
They said the problem dates back 15 years to a scheme introduced by the Labour government to pay GPs to ramp up treatment.
Writing in the Pharmaceutical Journal, the authors said the ‘payment by results’ programme overmedicalised the population and left many elderly people at risk of dangerous side effects.
Prescriptions for diabetes drugs have soared by 70 per cent in a decade with almost 55million given out last year, official figures show.
A booming crisis in type two diabetes – a condition strongly linked to obesity and lifestyle – have seen the number of people diagnosed almost double from 1.9 million in 2008 to 3.7 million today.
But the authors – a top official at NHS England and a consultant at Exeter University – said a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to treatment is putting elderly patients at risk.
They called for all over-70s with diabetes to be reviewed to ensure that any unnecessary treatment is stopped.
For many of these people the pills risk pushing blood sugar too low – putting them at risk of a dangerous ‘hypo’ which can cause a serious fall or leave people suffering cognitive impairment or even dementia.
They said a key problem is that the blood sugar targets which formed the basis of the GP incentive scheme are based on young people, rather than the elderly who are more sensitive to diabetes medication.’