Exclusive: GP commissioners have raised concern over the cost implications of vitamin D prescribing, after the number of scripts given to patients rose 16% year-on-year since January.
Data obtained by Pulse show the total number of vitamin D prescriptions was up by 16% in the first six months of this year, compared with the same period last year.
The rise comes after the chief medical officer wrote to all GPs in January urging them to prescribe vitamin D to all at-risk groups, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, children under five years of age and people aged 65 years and over.
The figures –from healthcare market research agency Cegedim Strategic Data, which looked at 150 UK GP practices – illustrate a sustained trend in rising prescription rates for vitamin D.
The cost of these prescriptions has been an increasingly painful headache for CCG leaders, with one CCG predicting it could escalate costs of prescribing by £20m over the next few years.
Dr Helen Tattersfield, GP lead at NHS Lewisham CCG and a GP in Bromley, said: ‘We are definitely recognising this as an increasing area of prescribing as the level of need and importance of this as a health issue becomes more and more apparent.
‘Cost is a real issue as most vitamin D products are unlicensed and are therefore costed as specials. Great care needs to be taken in how vitamin D is prescribed to avoid excessive “special” costs.’
Pulse revealed earlier this year that an east London CCG had launched a local campaign earlier this summer for people to spend more time in the sun in order to offset the cost of vitamin D supplementation.
Tower Hamlets CCG sent out leaflets to residents and held talks in local schools about the importance of spending time in the sun and eating a healthier diet.