Vitamin D2 rip-offs

Here's a sampling of prescription vitamin D2/ergocalciferol products available:

Prescription ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) (Drisdol brand), 50 caps for $130.84.

Alfcip brand of erogocalciferol (vitamin D), 30 capsules for $28.20.

Ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) as Drisdol oral solution, 1 bottle $146.26.

How about vitamin D3/cholecalciferol?

Carlson's brand cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), 120 capsules $5.09.

Cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, is far less expensive than ergocalciferol, vitamin D2. Cholecalciferol is available as a supplement without prescription. Ergocalciferol is available only by prescription.

The price difference must mean that the plant-based form, ergocalciferol, must be far superior to the naturally-occurring human form, vitamin D3.

Of course, that's not true. Dr. Robert Heaney's study is just one of several documenting the inferiority of D2/ergocalciferol, Vitamin D2 Is Much Less Effective than Vitamin D3 in Humans. D2 exerted less than a third of the effect of D3.

In my experience, D2/ergocalciferol often exerts no effect whatsoever. One woman I consulted on came into the office having been prescribed Drisdol capsules, 50,000 units every day for the past 18 months (by mistake by her physician). Blood level of active 25-OH-vitamin D3: Zero.

But the pharmacy and drug manufacturer collected $1413 for her 18-month course. Cost for a 4000 unit per day dose of D3/cholecalciferol: $45--and it would have actually worked.

In my view, prescription vitamin D2 is yet another example of drug manufacturer scams, a product that provides no advantages, costs more, but yields bigger profits.

Yet this wonderful supplement called cholecalciferol, among which Carlson's is an excellent choice, is available to you inexpensively, without prescription, and actually provides the benefits you desire.

Comments (21) -

  • Richard A.

    11/23/2007 10:32:00 PM |

    For price comparison, carries Country Life, Dry Vitamin D (as D2/ergocalciferol) , 1000 IU, 100 Tablets for $3.24.

    I have been personally using Healthy Origins, Vitamin D3, 2,400 IU, 360 Softgels that Iherb sells for $11.25.

  • TedHutchinson

    11/23/2007 10:47:00 PM |

    What I find very difficult to understand is why people are still using Ergocalciferol in research.

    "Effect of annual intramuscular vitamin D on fracture risk in elderly men and women a population-based, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." has recently been published showing 300000IU intramuscular vitamin D2ergocalciferol is not effective in preventing non-vertebral fractures among elderly men and women resident in the general population.
    Well, surprise, surprise, who could have guessed that using the form of Vitamin D2 old people's metabolism may not utilise doesn't benefit them?
    300000iu of D2 is actually (IF it was absorbed and IF it was utitilised) only (at very best)the equivalent of 100000iu of D3 spread over 365 days this is the equivalent of 274iu daily. 400iu raises status 9nmol/l - 3.6ng/ml  so 275 may raise status all of 6.25nmol/l - 2.5ng/ml.
    Now who would really expect changing an elderly persons Vitamin D status from 40nmol/l to 49nmol/l is going to significantly affect their rate of falls or broken bones?
    If we want to significantly improve muscle strength and bone density we need to raise status to maximise calcium uptake from our
    diet. That means getting somewhere near or even better above 80nmol/l.
    We know that 400iu raises status only by 9nmol/l so why is it that medical research scientists cannot work out how much vitamin d is needed daily to raise a persons vitamin d status from 40nmol/l to 80nmol/l?
    Why is it that given we know it takes 250 microg/day (10,000IU) of vitamin D2 25OHD levels to 85 nmol/l in 75% of the postmenopausal osteopenic/osteoporotic women do people still use it when the same result could have been achieved with less cost and greater safety with 2000iu/d/D3?
    Why are people still using utterly trivial amount of Vitamin D when there is good science showing larger amounts are not only effective but safe?

  • Anonymous

    11/23/2007 11:27:00 PM |

    Dr Davis. Why is it so difficult to get D3 tested in a way we can understand. You rescued us from the first test which came back as pg/ml (a test for 1,25 OH vit D.) This latest one came back reading 25-hydrox D2 <4.0 25-hydrox D3 40 25-hydrox D total(D2+D3) 40. Population reference 25-80.
    This one was sent to Mayo/Rochester MN and done by SUNQUEST. This is after taking a Carlsons Gel CAp 200 for 2 months. Is there a better way to get tested and be able to understand the results? We don't know if 40 is D2 & D3 together or Just D3? Thanks for eany enlightenment. Glucose counts remains 20 -30 points lower now...Many thanks. Over&Out

  • Anonymous

    11/23/2007 11:40:00 PM |

    I know you recommend vitamin D for its cardiac help but I was wondering if you had any comments on the results of the study published by the National Cancer Institute in the last month or 2 of 17,000 people that  said higher levels of vitamin D did ABSOLUTLY nothing for preventing ANY type cancer other than colon cancer?

  • Dr. Davis

    11/24/2007 1:14:00 AM |


    It's beyond me. We are witnessing extraordinary effects with D3, far beyond anything I ever anticipated. D2 belongs in the trash bin.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/24/2007 1:16:00 AM |

    Anonymous re: D2 and 1,25 testing

    I'll bet they did run the D3 as well and it was either buried in the report or you received incomplete results. D2 is often run with D3 and both are reported, along with the sum of the two. A call to the lab for the full report might clear it up.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/24/2007 1:21:00 AM |

    Yes. I believe their results stand apart as the only human study suggesting no benefit.

    That is the nature of science--we zigzag to the truth. I don't have any specific insights, however, that reveals why their results are unique.

  • Anonymous

    11/24/2007 3:40:00 AM |

    Anonymous said

    "This latest one came back reading 25-hydrox D2 <4.0 25-hydrox D3 40 25-hydrox D total(D2+D3) 40. Population reference 25-80...We don't know if 40 is D2 & D3 together or Just D3?"

    This isn't so hard to understand. D2 is less than 4.0, and they clearly say that D3 is 40. They also say that the total of D2+D3 is 40, which means that the D2 must be close to zero.

    The important thing is that your D3 is 40. That's not too far from 50, but it isn't there yet. You need to up your Vitamin D3 intake by at least 20%. Try upping it by 50% and retesting for Vitamin D in a couple of months. If it's still not up to 50, increase your intake some more.

  • TedHutchinson

    11/24/2007 10:13:00 AM |

    In reply to the anonymous comment on the one cancer report showing no (apart from a 72% reduction in colon cancer for those above 80nmol/l) other cancer savings benefit from vitamin d, we have to understand this paper was based on research not specifically designed to study the Vit d cancer relationship.
    The blood samples that were drawn initially were done in the cooler months in southern latitudes and the warmer months for the northern latitudes thereby blurring the difference.
    Similarly only one sample was taken. It's a bit like me observing your motorway driving speed and then basing predictions of your speed related motorway incidence/mortality over the next 10-12yrs on that one observation. In the same way we may not expect a 17yr old to drive at the same speed as a 29yr old or that 30yr old to still be driving in the same manner when he turns 40. To base a long term study just on one sample seems fundamentally flawed when the seasonal variation may be well over 30nmol/l and patterns of our outdoor sun exposure behaviours may vary as we age.
    If the study had taken say 4 vit/d3 status readings annually throughout the study and compared the length of time people spent with very low vit d status we may see a different pattern.
    Colon cancer: Prognosis for different latitudes, age groups and seasons in Norway. this study shows how those colon cancers diagnosed/treated when vit d status is high summer/autumn have a better prognosis than those d/t in winter/spring. What may be happening is that when D3 status is low, calcium is not well absorbed from food, so bones have to be raided for supplies, this increased calcium/bone turnover may allow opportunities for stray cancer cells to enter the bones.
    The same seasonal pattern of prognosis also applies to other cancers particularly breast.

  • Dr. Davis

    11/24/2007 2:02:00 PM |

    Excellent points.

  • Anonymous

    11/24/2007 11:08:00 PM |

    I think D2 is also prescribed out of laziness, due to combined calcium and vitamin D only being available as D2. It's easy for a GP to just write the one thing.

    Also, a few doctors aren't aware of a D3!

  • G

    11/26/2007 11:42:00 PM |

    The article you are referring to where only colon CA mortality was less for groups supplementing with Vit D did not actually achieve statistical significance for the comparisons for breast and prostate cancer.  I've dismissed there results for that reason...

  • Anonymous

    11/27/2007 3:15:00 AM |

    Laziness?  Doctors prescribe D2 because the gorgeous drug rep with the killer rack brings them lunch.

  • chickadeenorth

    12/2/2007 10:46:00 PM |

    Trying to order Vit D 3 softgel caps and they say cannot be shipped to Canada, yet l arginine can, any ideas why??

  • Dr. Davis

    12/3/2007 12:41:00 AM |

    Sorry, Chickadee, don't know why.

    I've never heard this before. Did you ask the company why?

  • chickadeenorth

    12/3/2007 6:24:00 AM |

    No I am going to call them tomorrow, its from the vitamin Shoppe and it has a warning beside it about shipping.?? I'll let you know here incase someone else comes against this.

  • Mo from Mo Blogs

    12/6/2007 12:28:00 AM |

    Just another spark about vitamin D.

    The Finnish believe the humble ketchup or tomato soup can affect LDL cholesterol levels.

    L.esculentum (the tomato to you and me) has D3, even in its leaves.
    How much D3 to fully satisfy the body I don't know, but perhaps with there being more than one tomato per soup serving, and more tomato nutrients per ketchup squidge, it's significant to be at least better than a low dose D2 supplement.

    Search for 'Vitamin D3 and its metabolites in tomato, potato, egg plant and zucchini leaves' and then read

  • Veggie girl

    7/12/2009 12:08:36 AM |

    What if you're a vegan or vegetarian, what do I do to get my vitamin D?

  • Marcos

    5/1/2010 10:00:11 PM |

    You get it from Vitamin D2. Frankly, I love how all of these comments and doctors, with limited knowledge, try to force D3 down our throats. Normally, I wouldn't comment but, as a Vegan, it ticks me off a bit when limited information is used to compare D2 D3. Let me be clear. D3 does not occur in the body. It is available in limited amounts from animal products, such as salmon, lanolin, etc. It does not occur freely in nature. D2, however if the vegan alternative and works as effectively. All one has to do is a search on trials or comparisons between D2 and D3.

    Oh, and for those who go to the doctor after taking d2 for awhile and not having a d level register. Well, duh. Most of the equipment that doctors have will not test for D2. You must ask them to run a test for D2 or nothing will show up. D2 has been proven to be equally effective, however, D2 does require Vitamin A supplementation at higher doses to that it is absorbed properly by the body. I've been taking D2 for years now and do not plan on putting any animal poison in my body.

  • Anonymous

    7/25/2010 4:28:35 PM |


    you are writing none-sense. Vitamin D3 is the form produced by the human body when exposed to UVB-radiation. We are designed for it, explaining why D2 is far less efficient in all studies done so far.

  • buy jeans

    11/3/2010 3:11:14 PM |

    In my view, prescription vitamin D2 is yet another example of drug manufacturer scams, a product that provides no advantages, costs more, but yields bigger profits.

    Yet this wonderful supplement called cholecalciferol, among which Carlson's is an excellent choice, is available to you inexpensively, without prescription, and actually provides the benefits you desire.