Patients with type 2 diabetes are given medication too soon, instead of being recommended to eat better and do more exercise, says a study on 650 English people.
Study author Dr Rob Andrew, a senior lecturer at the University of Bristol, revealed during a Diabetes UK conference that 36 per cent of the patients were put on tablets within a month of being diagnosed, and that lifestyle management was not given a chance despite being widely recognized as being the initial first "treatment".
Metformin is the first drug of choice, but more drugs can be added if that is not doing enough to control blood sugar levels.
The study revealed that 13 per cent of the participants were actually on two types of tablets within the first few weeks of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
Andrew said that he and his colleagues had not expected the figures to be quite so high.
"There is quite clear guidance that says when you're first diagnosed, you should have the opportunity to concentrate on lifestyle then if that doesn't work the next stage is metformin," the BBC quoted him as saying.
"When people are diagnosed, they're ready to make a lot of changes but if you give them a tablet, you're saying it is not their lifestyle that is the problem," he added.
He further said that incentive payments to encourage GPs to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes, a lack of NHS resources for lifestyle support, and a cultural attitude that people would not make the necessary changes could be held responsible for the results of his team's study.
Simon O'Neill, from Diabetes UK, also expressed his concerns that medication seemed to be the first port of call in some cases.
"A healthy, balanced diet and doing physical activity should always be the foundation of good diabetes management," he said.
"Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, the longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they are to need tablets, and eventually insulin.
"Even if people are on tablets, medication should not simply replace diet and physical activity," he added.
Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "It is a reminder for GPs and nurses managing newly diagnosed diabetes that lifestyle advice is the most important component."
He, however, added that there was a lack of resources in some areas for supporting behavioral changes.