There has been a “marked and sustained” increase in the vitamin D supplement prescriptions for children in the UK, according to a recent study.
The study, published in the BMJ Open, examined the changes in the incidence and patterns of vitamin D supplementation prescribing by GPs between 2008 and 2016.
Researchers found a 25-fold increase in the number of prescriptions for children aged below 10 years during this period, while analysing the records of vitamin D prescriptions for 2,051,403 eligible children submitted by GPs. Of these, 12,277 children from 723 general practices were prescribed vitamin D supplementation for the first time.
Higher prevalence rates of vitamin D deficiency were reported among teenage girls and non-white ethnic groups, while prescribing rates in England were higher than the other parts of the UK.
Researchers said one potential reason for the increase could be a greater awareness of vitamin D deficiency among doctors and patients, following campaigns by the Department of Health and Social Care.
However, the findings also suggest that the national set recommendations on vitamin D supplementation are not consistently followed by GPs, in terms of the number of patients treated, the doses used for supplementation, as well as the practice of prescribing vitamin D without appropriate testing.
“More recent NHS England guidance that recommends prescribing pharmacological prescriptions and UK healthcare expenditure, but its impact on prescribing practice would require further evaluation as previous guidelines have not always translated into practice,” the researchers concluded.