In the UK, doctors can prescribe gluten-free foods for patients with celiac disease, and such foods are covered by the National Health Service (NHS).
Gluten-free staples, such as flour and bread, were first made available by prescription in the 1960s. It is estimated that in 2011, the NHS in England spent £27 million on gluten-free foods for people with celiac disease.
Some experts argue that doctors should stop prescribing allergen-free foods because the money could be better spent on other services. On the other hand, one celiac disease charity says it is concerned that people could have difficulty paying for safe foods if they are no longer able to receive funding for it.
Allergen-Friendly Foods Available but Expensive
In recent years, gluten-free foods and other allergy-friendly staples have become more available in supermarkets. To some, increasing availability makes it harder to justify making such foods available through the NHS.
However, gluten-free foods often come at an added expense; research has found that gluten-free versions of foods that usually contain wheat are between 80 and 500 percent more expensive. A recent editorial in theDrug and Therapeutics Bulletinasks, “Is it time to consider the use of food vouchers that could be redeemed against gluten-free foods at any outlet?”
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK, a national charity for people with celiac disease, commented:
“Following a gluten-free diet enables patients to live a full and healthy life … If you are elderly, on low incomes or have mobility problems, there is a gap because such foods are likely to be inaccessible. They cost too much or can’t be found in the shops you can get to. Prescriptions are providing an essential service for these vulnerable groups.”
Do you think that the government should provide gluten-free foods to those with celiac disease?