Is vitamin D supplementation a cost-effective treatment?

Posted on: April 8, 2016   by  Amber Tovey

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Two studies concluded that vitamin D supplementation likely has a positive impact economically in both pregnant women and orthopedic trauma patients.

Vitamin D skeptics commonly complain that vitamin D supplementation and testing is too costly for medical professionals to utilize with their patients. These cynics question whether research has provided enough evidence to warrant testing and supplementation.

Previous research has found vitamin D supplementation provides an inexpensive and effective method of intervention for women who are undergoing fertility treatment. In fact, the researchers determined that for each ongoing pregnancy in women who were not treated for vitamin D deficiency spent nearly $12,000 more on average than those who were treated for vitamin D deficiency. The researchers concluded that treatment of vitamin D deficiency was cost effective when the assisted reproductive technology cycle was less than $20,500.

A relatively recent study also found that vitamin D deficiency is linked with a significant financial burden on hospitals and third party payers. Low vitamin D status was associated with approximately a $13,000 increased cost for intensive care units and a $10,000 increased cost for hospital wards.

Now, two additional studies have provided evidence that vitamin D supplementation is well worth its price. The first study estimated the economic burden attributed to inadequate vitamin D status in pregnant women. To do this, the researchers analyzed data from published literature regarding the effects of vitamin D supplementation on pregnancy complications. Vitamin D supplementation elicits a multitude of benefits for pregnant women, reducing the risk of pregnancy complications and birth complications. Thus, the study’s results came as no surprise to the Vitamin D Council.

The researchers found that inadequate vitamin D accounted for 14% of risk for pre-eclampsia; though, they did not find significant treatment effects for preterm birth or small gestational age. The researchers estimated that addressing vitamin D inadequacy in pregnant women in England and Wales would reduce the number of cases of pre-eclampsia by 4,126. This would result in a net saving of 18.6 million British pounds, which converts to 26.5 million US dollars annually.

The researchers stated,

“The current results suggest that based on current evidence a public health policy preventing vitamin D inadequacy in pregnant women is likely to have a positive impact on the NHS budget in England and Wales.”

The second study assessed the economic benefit of the combination of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in orthopedic trauma patients. The researchers analyzed medical records of 2,358 adult patients with acute fracture in one hospital over three years. They wanted to determine whether vitamin D supplementation affected the occurrence of non-unions. Non-unions refer to when a broken bone fails to heal. The treatments offered for non-unions include bone stimulation and surgery, both of which are relatively expensive procedures.

The researchers found that an average of 92 of their fractures develop non-union annually. Eight weeks of daily vitamin D (1,600 IU) and calcium (1,200 mg) supplementation resulted in a 5% reduction in non-union risk, or approximately 4.6 fewer non-unions each year. While this reduction may appear minor, the expenses saved are far from insignificant. The researchers found that the total cost to treat the 4.6 non-unions was $78,030. The cost of supplementation for all fracture patients was $12,164. Therefore, they projected that vitamin D and calcium supplementation would result in a net savings of $65,866 per year for one hospital alone.

The researchers concluded,

“Vitamin D and calcium supplementation of orthopedic trauma patients for 8 weeks after fracture appears to be cost-effective.”

They went on to state the other plausible benefits associated with calcium and vitamin D supplementation,

“Supplementation may also reduce the number of subsequent fractures, enhance muscular strength, improve balance in the elderly, elevate mood leading to higher functional outcome scores and diminish hospital tort liability by reducing the number of nonunions.”

The current literature provides evidence that vitamin D supplementation is a cheap and effective method in both the prevention and treatment of various health outcomes.

Citation

Tovey, A. & Cannell, JJ. Is vitamin D cost effective? The Vitamin D Council Blog & Newsletter, 2016.

Sources

Kamudoni, P. et al. An estimate of the economic burden of vitamin D deficiency in pregnant women in the United Kingdom. Gynecological Endocrinology, 2016.

Childs, BR. et al. Economic benefit of calcium and vitamin D supplementation: Does it outweigh the cost of nonunions? Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma, 2016.

1 Response to Is vitamin D supplementation a cost-effective treatment?

  1. hlahore@gmail.com

    There are huge profits to be made when vitamin D is given by Health Maintenance Organizations, however this particular study is a poor example.
    1) Failed to include costs included for education, distribution, etc.
    2) Recommended only 800 IU (the upper limit in the UK)
    3) Did not consider a loading dose, so as to get benefits in weeks instead of months

    Details at http://vitamindwiki.com/tiki-index.php?page_id=7415

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