The Nation's Health + [vitamin D]

vitamin D: 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.