The amount of drugs prescribed to fight obesity, diabetes and allergies all rose last year, an analysis of NHS data has shown.
Overall, 842.5 million prescriptions were dispensed in 2008, 5.8% more than in 2007, and nearly two thirds more than the 1998 figure.
Analysis of the data from the NHS information centre shows that prescriptions treating diabetes rose by 2.2 million, more than 7% on the year before. They were also the most costly prescriptions, costing nearly £600m.
The amount of allergy medications issued, such as hyposensitisation drugs, allergic emergency drugs, and antihistamines, increased by 5.1% on 2007 as approximately 500,000 more were issued.
Obesity drugs showed a rise of 3.7%, as 1.3 million were issued in 2008, up from 1.2 million the year before.
The overall cost of prescriptions bucked the trend, decreasing by 0.6% to an overall cost of £8.325m – an average of 16.4 prescription items dispensed per head, compared with 15.6 per head in 2007.
Tim Straughan, who leads the NHS Information Centre, said: "The reduction in cost may be due in part to the Category M scheme, where the net ingredient cost for some commonly prescribed drugs is controlled, with the aim of reducing costs overall."