The NHS spent £60million on prescribing specialist formula milks in 2016, up from £8.1million in 2006.
But doctors warn that industry-sponsored research is fuelling overdiagnosis. They told medical journal The BMJ that it discourages breastfeeding and there is little research on the long-term health impact.
Medics say that makers of specialist formulas have funded both the guidelines used to identify cows’ milk protein allergy and the experts who promote them. Most mums of tots with the allergy give up breastfeeding because they are told to ditch all dairy foods.
UK breastfeeding rates are among the world’s lowest. Lead researcher and TV medic Dr Chris van Tulleken said: “It has all the hallmarks of industry- sponsored overdiagnosis.”
Prescriptions for the allergy rose from 105,029 in 2006 to over 600,000 in 2016. Swansea Uni’s Prof Amy Brown said: “A common reason for stopping breastfeeding is concern about breast milk sufficiency.”
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