One of the latest health and wellness trends to spread across America could also lead to incorrect lab test results. Use of high-dose biotin supplements, which are often taken with the belief it will improve hair, skin or nails, has been on the rise. Yet few people are aware that these supplements may interfere with some laboratory test results, including tests used in heart disease, thyroid disease and fertility.
Retail sales of biotin supplements went up approximately 260% between 2013 and 2016, with millions of people now taking the supplement. Many of the dietary supplements promoted for hair, skin and nail contain as much as 650 times the recommended daily intake of biotin.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration first issued a warning in 2017 that taking high doses of biotin could interfere with some lab tests. This past June, the agency provided draft recommendations to lab test manufacturers for designing studies to test for biotin interference and communicating results, to help reduce risks of biotin interference.
A recent global survey found 20% of people globally said they take biotin, but only 1 in 10 people globally who say they take biotin are aware of its potential impact on lab tests. The same survey found that 17% of the respondents in the U.S. report taking biotin, but just 3% of them were aware of the potential interaction.
Not all doctors and labs are aware of this potential interaction. The same global survey found less than a third (35%) of healthcare providers in the U.S. were familiar and only 7% were very familiar. In addition, healthcare providers may not receive information about the potential for biotin interference from the laboratory that performs the tests.
So what can providers do?
There is currently insufficient data available to support recommendations for how to use lab tests impacted by biotin interference, partly because of the length of time needed for biotin to clear from the blood is unknown.
Doctors should make sure their patients are aware of the issue and ask about all supplement use. They also can ask their laboratory provider for a list of tests that may be subject to biotin interference. As not all manufacturer’s products are impacted by biotin interference, doctors can request that their laboratory provider use tests that are biotin-interference-free.
Since it will take some time for new tests that are not impacted by biotin interference to be developed and enter the market, it’s important that doctors know which tests their lab uses and whether or not they are impacted by biotin interference. Clear communication between patients and doctors, as well as doctors and their laboratory providers are critical to ensuring accurate results.
To learn more about this issue, Abbott has posted information for physicians here.