By Peter Russell
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
14th February 2013
Doctors should stop prescribing gluten-free foods to patients with coeliac
disease, say experts. They argue that it is a waste of money which would be better spent on other services for people with the condition.
However, one coeliac disease charity says it is concerned that support for people with the disease is being questioned and warns that people on low incomes in particular could be penalised if access to suitable food on prescription is withdrawn.
Damage to the gut
Coeliac disease is not a food allergy
or a food intolerance but is an autoimmune disease caused by gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley - triggering an immune reaction in those with coeliac disease Common sources of gluten include bread, pasta, cakes and biscuits, but it is often listed as an ingredient in favourite foods such as fish fingers, sausages and gravies.
Gluten causes damage to the gut in people with the disease.
Coeliac disease affects at least one in 100 people in the UK but many people with the condition are never diagnosed.
Gluten-free staple items such as bread and flour were first made available on prescription in the 1960s when there was limited access to these alternatives other than through the NHS
. However, even today patients still obtain gluten-free supplies on prescription through pharmacies and the latest figures from 2011 show that the NHS in England spent £27 million on these items.