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The BMJ Gluten Free Prescription Debate

The British Medical Journal have published a debate on whether gluten free food should be on prescription, find out more below.

Added 11th January 2017

Updated 10th November 2020

The BMJ Gluten Free Prescription Debate
Today an article has been published in the British Medical Journal, this article is a debate over whether gluten free food should be on prescription or not. With so many prescription cuts for gluten free already happened this debate is probably long overdue.

According to the article in 2015 £25.7 million was spent on gluten free prescriptions, now about 40% of clinical commissioning groups are restricting or totally cutting gluten free food on prescription. Already Somerset, a vast majority of Yorkshire, Norfolk plus other areas have cut prescriptions, just yesterday Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees joined this line up.

Both parties in the argument agree there should be support for Coeliacs from the NHS when it comes to gluten free food however the opposing sides think different ways of providing the support should be used.

The debate makes for an interesting read and can be read online for free until 18th Jan 17 (after that you need to be a paying subscriber) - read the article here. Here is an overview of what is in the article.

On the for side of the debate were three names, Matthew Kurien, a clinical lecuter in gastroenterology along with Professor David Sanders and Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK. On the against side was GP James Cave from Newbury.

Both sides make some excellent points into both for and against, the for side focused on availability and the importance of a gluten free diet for Coeliacs.

They go on to point out the "grotesque media distortions" and how only staple food is approved to be prescribed and the "persistent comparisons" drawn between Coeliac and Diabetes along with mention of how specialist food has no benefit for diabetes.

Although gluten-free foods are available in supermarkets, they are often not found in local convenience or budget stores, disadvantaging poorer people and those with limited mobility


The against side counters that buying gluten free food has never been more convenient with visiting supermarkets and now online shopping, according to this GP, ordering gluten free from the doctor is more "stressful and confusing". They also state the high costs the NHS has to pay compared to the cost consumers pay in supermarkets, with pasta being up to 5x more expensive on prescription and bread being 50% more expensive.

James Cave goes to suggest a national voucher scheme would be more beneficial, less stressful and save extra expense. He also suggests that struggling Coeliacs would have more convenience and choice.

In 2016, it is ludicrous for the NHS to be treating a food product as a drug and to require GPs and pharmacists to behave as grocers.


The Daily Mail have also managed to through things out of proportion again with reference to this article in today's (11th Jan) paper....nothing new there then!

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