Vitamin D tests and deficiency: New patient resource for GPs

30 May 2013

A new patient information leaflet on vitamin D deficiency will be available from next week for GPs to use with their patients. The leaflet is part of a suite of resources developed for the latest NPS MedicineWise educational program on preventive activities in general practice.

Vitamin D testing is one of several medical tests appraised in the program that focuses on preventive health in 40 – 49 year olds. It encourages GPs to prioritise evidence-based risk assessments and tests, and avoid inappropriate testing that may cause more harm than good.

NPS MedicineWise clinical adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says that the vitamin D test is one for which there is a lack of evidence of benefit in people without risk factors for, or symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

This is in contrast to a range of preventive assessments and tests for which there is strong likelihood of benefit when targeted to healthy people in appropriate age groups, including Pap tests, diabetes risk assessments and absolute cardiovascular risk assessments.

“There has been an increased interest in vitamin D deficiency in recent years, and a ten-fold increase in the number of referrals for vitamin D tests since 2004/2005,” says Dr Boyden.

“Current guidelines recommend vitamin D testing in ‘at risk’ populations, but the consequences of routine testing in low-risk populations are unclear. There are limitations with vitamin D immunoassays, debate about optimal vitamin D levels, and questions about the clinical significance of mild deficiency.

“The RCPA yesterday announced a new position statement recommending that vitamin D testing is not conducted or recommended as routine screening.

“The new NPS MedicineWise patient information leaflet helps GPs talk to their patients about sensible sun exposure, diet and supplements, and is a useful tool to assist conversations.”

The vitamin D information leaflet includes answers to common patient questions including:

  • Why do I need vitamin D?
  • Am I at high risk of vitamin D deficiency?
  • How do I get vitamin D?
  • Do I need a vitamin D test?
  • When are vitamin D tests less useful?

What does a vitamin D blood test involve?

It also includes space for patients to record details about their blood test results and whether a supplement is recommended.

A media article on vitamin D deficiency will also appear in the Pulse health and wellbeing liftout in Fairfax newspapers including The Age on Monday 3 June and the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times on Thursday 6 June.

The vitamin D patient information leaflet will be available from the beginning of June in GP prescribing software including Best Practice, Genie, Medical Director and MedTech 32, and is also available on the NPS MedicineWise website at www.nps.org.au/vitamin-d-fact-sheet

For more information about the Preventive Activities in General Practice educational program, and to read about which medical tests make a difference, visit www.nps.org.au/preventive-health

ENDS

Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.

Media enquiries: Stephanie Childs on 02 8217 8667, 0419 618 365 or schilds@nps.org.au or Erin Jardine on (02) 8217 8733 or ejardine@nps.org.au