Treating vitamin D deficiency to cost £100m a year by 2013

Treating vitamin D deficiency in primary care is set to cost more than £100m a year by 2013, as the DH calls for wider supplementation and drug costs soar.

Rickets: due to a lack of vitamin D
Rickets: due to a lack of vitamin D

Primary care spending on treatments for vitamin D deficiency rose from £28m in 2004 to £76m in 2011, NHS data show. The rise in costs is accelerating, jumping £11m since 2010.

Vitamin D deficiency treatments are often supplied as special-order products and can cost up to £1,000 each.

This month, the UK's CMOs urged health professionals to raise awareness of the hazards of vitamin D deficiency and said at-risk patients need to take supplements.

More than 50% of adults are thought to have insufficient levels of vitamin D and, during winter and spring, 16% have severe deficiency.

Long-term vitamin D insufficiency raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Deficiency causes rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said that preventing deficiency required an 'intelligent' view on spending.

'There's been a significant increase in awareness of vitamin D deficiency. Prescribing costs have risen significantly as a result. Treating and preventing vitamin D deficiency will prevent bone disease in future.

'One problem we've always had is the NHS looking at prescribing budgets in isolation, not looking at preventing illness in future. Commissioners must recognise it's appropriate to increase spend.'

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