A recent review of vitamin D testing conducted by the Medicare Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) has recommended tighter regulations around the availability of vitamin D testing.
The aim of the review was to identify people at high-risk of conditions and diseases related to low vitamin D levels and to limit the number of tests being prescribed by doctors to people outside of this high risk population.
Figures show the number of vitamin D tests performed on Medicare each year has risen a staggering 4600% over the past decade and the review attempted to address this sharp increase.
A spokeswoman for the health department said the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) noted the previous testing arrangements for vitamin D were not well targeted and recommended new items be created to limit testing to high risk populations.
The review has caused concern in the multiple sclerosis community that subsidised vitamin D tests would no longer be available to people with MS as the disease was not deemed part of the high-risk population. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to a higher risk of developing MS, however, there is not clear evidence as yet on the benefits of vitamin D supplements for people with MS.
However closer inspection of the new Medicare item numbers, which came into effect on November 1, show they do include scope for people with MS provided they lack exposure to the sun (such as being confined to the house) or are referred for vitamin D testing by a specialist such as their neurologist.
MS Research Australia is currently leading a world-first clinical trial of vitamin D in people at risk of developing MS (PREVANZ). It is expected this study will provide vital information as to whether using vitamin D supplementation following a first episode or attack can help prevent a diagnosis of MS and establish the most appropriate and safe dose of vitamin D.
For more information on the PREVANZ trial please visit: http://www.msra.org.au/prevanz