Vitamin D for $200?

What if vitamin D cost $200 rather than $2?

In other words, what if cholecalciferol, or vitamin D3, was a patent-protectable agent that would sell for an extravagant price, just like a drug?

Vitamin D would be the hot topic. There would be TV ads run during Oprah, slick magazine two-page spreads with experts touting its outsized benefits, insurance companies would battle over how much your copay should be.

The manufacturer would host large fancy symposia to educate physicians on how wonderful vitamin D is for treatment of numerous conditions, complete with dinner, a show, and gifts. They would hire expert speakers to speak, scientists to have articles ghost-written, give out knick knacks with the brand label inscribed--just like Lipitor, Actos, Vytorin, ReoPro, Plavix . . .

After all, what other "drug" substantially increases bone density (up to 20% in adult females), enhances insulin responses 30% (equivalent to the TZD drugs, Actos and Avandia), and slashes colon cancer risk?

But it's not a drug. That is both vitamin D's strength and its weakness. It's a strong point because it's natural, phenomenally helpful across a variety of conditions, and inexpensive. It is also a weakness because, at $2 a month, no one is raking in the $12 billion annually that Pfizer makes for Lipitor that allows it to fund an enormous marketing campaign.

Vitamin D is a "discovery" of huge importance for health, including making reductions of CT heart scan scores far more likely for more people. And it comes without a prescription.

Comments (2) -

  • Edward

    3/14/2007 8:34:00 AM |
    This recent research shows the poor Vitamin D status of most UK white residents. 87% lower than ideal in Winter and 60% remain so throughout the year. Goodness knows what the situation is for those with brown or black skins but it will inevitably be worse as it takes longer for darker skins to make the same amount of D3.

  • Neil

    3/15/2007 12:42:00 AM |

    Poster Edward and Dr. Davis, I have been reading quite a lot about vitamin D, the subject to me is absolutely fascinating. Edward, your thought about darker skin pigmentation and low vitamin D status is verified throughout medical literature and news articles. Like this...

    "...92 percent of African-American babies and 66 percent of white infants found to have inadequate vitamin D concentrations in their blood at birth." Link…

    This especially gives one pause when you then consider the rate of cardiovascular disease, cervical, colorectal, lung, and prostate cancers, hypertension, fibromyalgia, Alzheimer's, and diabetes run much higher in the African American community, sometimes as much as 100-200% higher for some of these diseases.  Since these are all conditions strongly associated with vitamin D status, could it be all they need is this inexpensive vitamin supplement on an ongoing basis? And these strong associations with vitamin D status and rate of these serious diseases hold true for other racial backgrounds. One study of Southeast Asians living in England found they had a low Vitamin D status as well.

    To quote Dr. Davis from the other day "The whole vitamin D "discovery" sometimes worries me. Vitamin D has proven to be an unbelievable, remarkable, dramatic boon to health, including facilitation in dropping CT heart scan scores. Yet the answer was always right in front of us. It worries me that you and I might have the answer to important questions right within our grasp all along--but don't know it. What if the same were true, say, for cancer? That is, a profound answer is right there, but our eyes just pass right over it."

    In my recent reading I have run across so many articles on vitamin D that are just so stunning that I saved them.

    "Vitamin D deficiency is a major contributor to chronic low back pain in areas where vitamin D deficiency is endemic." Link...

    “…...the vitamin plays a role in shutting down or activating at least 100 genes, many of which are involved in preventing members of the Alzheimer's patients reported how well they were performing and acting within weeks of being put on large doses of prescription vitamin D, said lead author Robert Przybelski, an associate professor of geriatric medicine at the University of Wisconsin.”We hypothesize that good vitamin D levels might prevent or mitigate the disease," Przybelski said.”  Link…

    “…the deadliness of the 1918 killer flu could have been largely a result of vitamin D deficiency. Worldwide, an estimated 25 million people died from that flu.” Link…

    “…With respect to the modulation of cardiovascular effects by 1 ,25-(OH)2D3, further investigations are needed that could eventually lead to novel pharmacological approaches to manage hypertrophy, restenosis, and atherosclerosis or remodel the cardiovascular system.” Link…

    “…71% of patients with severe PAD had serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] levels that were below 9 ng/mL” Link…

    How could a two dollar a month supplement do all this!!! Pretty incredible stuff.

    My own family tree is littered with victims of cancer, heart attack (leading to sudden death MI’s in my Uncle and Grandfather both at the age of 52), stroke, Alzheimer’s, ALS, etc. Could vitamin D have been a strong contributing factor to their deaths??? Considering my own vitamin D level was EXTREMELY low and I now have to take about 6,000 IU daily just to normalize it, and I as well had a heart attack at 46, I consider this idea at least as a possible common factor.

    Dr. Davis...Thanks for keeping us informed on your patient experiences and your latest thoughts on Vitamin D and all the other treatments you are exploring. Your daily observations through your blog have helped me a great deal in becoming healthier. Reading your blog and webpage are constant sources of inspiration as well.