News

Vitamin D supplementation programs can save health care costs

August 26, 2013

According to a new press release from New Zealand widespread vitamin D supplementation in aged care facilities has saved the government over 400 thousand US dollars over the past two years.

In 2010, the MidCentral District Health Board (DHB) began encouraging health professionals to prescribe vitamin D to residents in aged care facilities. Between March 2010 and June 2012, the percentage of aged care residents supplementing with vitamin D increased from 15 to 74 percent. The main goal was to reduce fall-related fractures. Comparisons from before and after the start of the project showed a 32 percent reduction in emergency room visits for aged residential care residents with fall-related fractures and a 41 percent reduction in their hospital admissions due to these fractures (1).

Due to reduced hospital admissions , the vitamin D project has saved New Zealand’s MidCentral DHB about 430,000 US dollars. There are also likely to be further savings due to reduced need for clinical support, hospital pharmacy services and rehabilitation. A government’s spokesperson commented that the benefits of preventing falls in older people cannot be overstated, as it enables them to maintain their independence and confidence.

The results of the program corroborate with past research, which shows that vitamin D supplementation can reduce falls and fall-related fractures. Vitamin D seems to have direct effects on muscle strength modulated by specific vitamin D receptors present in human muscle tissue (2). A meta-analysis of randomized con-trolled trials showed that supplemental vitamin D at a dose of 700–1000 IU per day reduced the risk of falling among older individuals by 19 percent (3). However, doses of less than 700 IU or serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations of less than 60 nanomole per liter did not seem to reduce the risk of falling.

References

1. Live News. Vitamin D project helps prevent falls and saves health costs. Published online August 2013.

2. Bischoff-Ferrari H. A. et al. Vitamin D receptor expression in human muscle tissue decreases with age. J Bone Miner Res. 2004; 19(2):265-269.

3. Bischoff-Ferrari H. A. et al. Fall prevention with supplemental and active forms of vitamin D: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. British Medical Journal. 2009; 339:b3692.