Diabetes treatmentDiabetes UK slams Nice in inhaler row

19 April 2006

A syringe

Diabetes campaigners have hit out at the healthcare watchdog after it said insulin inhalers - an alternative to injections - weren't cost-effective in treating the condition.

The drug Exubera is designed to offer adults with diabetes an alternative to their daily insulin injections. It can be used for both type I and II diabetes and has been approved for use by the European Commission.

But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) estimates it would cost GBP 1,102 per person and says there are insufficient grounds to justify its widespread use in the NHS in England and Wales.

Diabetes UK: 'reconsider'

Simon O'Neill, Director of Care at Diabetes UK said: 'Diabetes UK would like to urge Nice to reconsider its recommendations to take more account of the patient's perspective and meet individual needs and preferences.'

About 800,000 people in the UK are thought to manage their condition with daily injections.

The new inhaler is designed to replace 'short-acting' insulin, which diabetics inject before meals. Those using the inhaler would still need to take a longer-acting dose of the drug overnight to keep their blood-sugar levels stable.

'Medical breakthrough'

Diabetes UK said that while the inhaler wouldn't particularly benefit those who inject once or twice a day with long-acting or medium-acting insulin, the inhaler was a 'medical breakthrough' and 'should not be restricted on the basis of cost'.

It added: 'Many people with diabetes will be deeply disappointed that they are being denied this alternative form of treatment. It will be unfortunate if people in England have limited access whilst it becomes available in other countries.'

Pfizer, which makes the drug, said the Nice decision appeared 'perverse and short-sighted'.

However, Nice said its guidance wasn't final yet; healthcare professionals and the public would have the chance to comment on it, in a Nice consultation before a final decision is published in October.