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NHS chaos warning as diabetes drug axed in shake-up

Thousands of diabetic patients face changing medication as a pharmaceutical giant plans to withdraw a key treatment from the UK, creating extra work for the NHS at a time when hundreds of jobs are ­facing the axe.

Doctors say the removal of insulin Mixtard 30, on which some sufferers have relied for more than a decade, would cause significant upheaval for patients and the health service.

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Five years ago, Novo Nordisk faced criticism for giving five months’ notice before withdrawing another insulin treatment.

When diabetics switch their insulin they need guidance on how to administer the new treatment and potentially extra monitoring to ensure there are no teething problems.

As well as working for thousands of adults, Mixtard 30 is widely used among children.

One clinician said the removal of the product would cause mayhem. He said: “It is an open secret that the withdrawal of that product, at this time, would be difficult for the NHS.”

Mixtard 30 belongs to a category of insulin that is cheaper for the NHS to buy, but, according to the latest analysis by experts in Scotland, it is just as effective as the newer, more expensive generation of diabetic drugs.

Guidelines issued to the Scottish health service earlier this year said hundreds of thousands of pounds could be saved if more patients used the older form of insulin.

The withdrawal of Mixtard 30 by Danish drugs firm Novo Nordisk would mean fewer options for clinicians who want to follow this advice and save the health service money.

Dr Michael Small, diabetologist at Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow, said: “A lot of people on Mixtard 30 have been on it for 10 to 15 years. Those people will not want to change their insulin. It is inconvenient for them. They would need more diabetes nurse specialist input. They would have to do extra blood testing.

“It would create extra workload for a number of months, especially for some clinics where a lot of patients are on it. It would create significant pressures for them.”

There are nearly 230,000 people in Scotland with diabetes and 2.5 million people living with the condition across the UK. Patients with type one diabetes, of which there are 27,367 in Scotland, as well as some patients with type two, rely on insulin injections to control the problem.

The amount of glucose in the blood of people suffering from the condition is too high because their bodies cannot regulate it properly. This is because their pancreas does not produce any insulin, or not enough, or the insulin produced does not work properly.

Last night, Bridget Turner, head of policy at Diabetes UK, said: “It has always been our stance that the ­removal of any insulin from the market goes against patient choice and will cause anxiety for people with diabetes. If there are any changes to the types of insulin available in the UK, pharmaceutical companies have a duty of care to provide time for those affected to liaise with their healthcare teams to discuss alternative treatment.”

In a statement, Novo Nordisk said: “We continually review our insulin portfolio as newer, more innovative insulins are introduced.

“This has resulted in a gradual discontinuation of older animal and human insulins as modern insulins have become established in the UK.

“Any further Novo Nordisk insulin portfolio changes will be communicated in a timely and professional manner.

“We believe it is imperative that any communication is done in a way that minimises patient concern and ensures that healthcare ­professionals have the appropriate information.”

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