OBJECTIVE: To examine temporal changes in the incidence and patterns of vitamin D supplementation prescribing by general practitioners (GPs) between 2008 and 2016.

DESIGN: Population-based cohort study.

SETTING: UK general practice health records from The Health Improvement Network.

PARTICIPANTS: Children aged 0 to 17 years who were registered with their general practices for at least 3 months.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Annual incidence rates of vitamin D prescriptions were calculated, and rate ratios were estimated using multivariable Poisson regression to explore differences by sociodemographic factors. Data on the type of supplementation, dose, dosing schedule, linked 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) laboratory test results and clinical symptoms suggestive of vitamin D deficiency were analysed.

RESULTS: Among 2 million children, the crude annual incidence of vitamin D prescribing increased by 26-fold between 2008 and 2016 rising from 10.8 (95% CI: 8.9 to 13.1) to 276.8 (95% CI: 264.3 to 289.9) per 100 000 person-years. Older children, non-white ethnicity and general practices in England (compared with Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland) were independently associated with higher rates of prescribing. Analyses of incident prescriptions showed inconsistent supplementation regimens with an absence of pre-supplementation 25(OH)D concentrations in 28.7% to 56.4% of prescriptions annually. There was an increasing trend in prescribing at pharmacological doses irrespective of 25(OH)D concentrations, deviating in part from UK recommendations. Prescribing at pharmacological doses for children with deficient status increased from 3.8% to 79.4%, but the rise was also observed in children for whom guidelines recommended prevention doses (0% to 53%). Vitamin D supplementation at pharmacological doses was also prescribed in at least 40% of children with no pre-supplementation 25(OH)D concentrations annually.

CONCLUSIONS: There has been a marked and sustained increase in vitamin D supplementation prescribing in children in UK primary care. Our data suggests that national guidelines on vitamin D supplementation for children are not consistently followed by GPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e031870
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2019


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