A b12 serum level can’t tell you how a patient is feeling, only the patient can, but why is no one listening?

Is your doctor allowing you to sink or swim?

How are you feeling? Are your symptoms improving? Do you need more frequent B12 injections……? These questions are very rarely asked of B12 deficient patients regarding their treatment. Too many patients remain ‘seen’ but not heard. Never heard.

Why has the medical establishment become so averse to listening to B12 deficient patients?  To treating symptoms and to acknowledging this fundamental nutritional requirement?  Why are we not offered the same listening ear as those with other conditions might be?

The patient is ALWAYS the expert on how they are feeling, not some serum B12 level or any maintenance guidelines which bear no relationship to the patient experience.

lifeboy-b12

Loss of a great relationship  

Any visit to the doctors can be an ordeal. You may be feeling, vulnerable, tearful, in pain, stressed, anxious and not wanting to waste the doctor’s time. But, the incredibly healing benefit of just ten minutes of really being heard, experiencing kindness and compassion and having a plan of action, is profound. We leave knowing our doctor is trying to help us. That ten minutes being reassured and cared for creates a phenomenal level of trust.

B12 deficient patients, in many cases, experience a completely different relationship with their doctor when requesting an increased frequency of B12 injections, finding that a couple of weeks after their injection their debilitating symptoms are back with a vengeance.

The very same Doctor who helped them through rough times, cared for them through pregnancy or trauma can become distant, defensive, unfeeling and even angry.  It’s as if an invisible wall is built,  eye contact is limited, and communication is almost strangulated. The usual empathy may be replaced by flippant, incorrect comments about B12 being a placebo, that B12 deficiency is ‘over diagnosed’ that people want too much, get addicted to it and that there is no evidence to suggest that it actually makes a difference! 

There’s an inability on the part of some GP’s to demonstrate compassion or understanding for a patient who is struggling to function on three monthly injections. The current situation means that some patients are able to function for only 8 weeks out of 52.  Many GP’s are refusing to treat symptoms, whilst concern with B12 serum blood levels takes precedence over common sense. Ignoring how the patient feels can lead to feelings of confusion, anger, desperation, and fear. What are they supposed to do?

Patient’s who are in pain, exhausted and confused need more B12, not less – but this fact is not understood by those who should be caring for us.

This ‘new’ attitude from the GP may cause fractures in, or even a complete death of their previous good relationship. For those patients who feel they’ve upset their doctor by asking for more B12 or who fail to articulate what they need it may mean that they will try to struggle on alone. This is a shocking and intolerable situation for a patient who previously had an excellent relationship with someone they completely trusted to care for them.

What usually happens in the UK ….

In the main GPs prescribe loading doses (6 injections over two weeks) and then automatically place patients onto three monthly injection regime regardless of the severity of their symptoms. This is very often done without discussion with the patient – in fact without any kind of consultation whatsoever. It might be a nurse who delivers this information and who sticks rigidly to the exact date three months later for the next injection. It is not uncommon for patients who try to have their injection a couple of days early only to be turned away distraught.

This situation can leave the patient bewildered about why their inexpensive injections are rationed, knowing their lack can cause widespread, permanent damage. This condition is so simple and easy to treat but B12 is withheld due to lack of education.

Patients restricted to 3 monthly injections are commonly offered strong painkillers, Gabapentin, amitriptyline, and other antidepressants, all manner of symptom modifying drugs in place of the vitamin needed to repair their nerves.  There’s something seriously wrong when a GP insists on exploring dementia in a symptomatic patient in their 40’s, rather than treating a B12 level which is just within range.

Retesting serum levels

Once a patient is being treated with B12 injections, it does make sense to check the serum B12 level in the beginning to confirm that the patient is responding to treatment. If there is a good response then no further testing is required. Continual retesting of serum levels prior to an injection (and in some cases just a few days after) is a total waste of time and money and it’s clear that some GP’s are mistakenly using a ‘within range’ result as a reason to stop B12 injections.

The sole reliance on B12 serum levels to decide whether a patient is well or not is entirely illogical given that many patients with a B12 level up in the 1000’s may still be experiencing incredibly painful and debilitating symptoms. They may be suffering from a failing memory, an inability to walk, to stay awake and terrible anxiety.

A high serum B12 level post injection is not showing any toxicity, it is also no indication of the level of nerve repair but repeatedly patients are told:

‘your levels are too high’,
‘we need to stop your injections until they come back down’
‘you no longer need B12……..’

There is a genetic problem which is thankfully highlighted by the NHS – ‘functional B12 deficiency,’  it would be helpful if our GP’s were all made aware of this;

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Anaemia-vitamin-B12-and-folate-deficiency/Pages/Causes.aspx 

‘Some people can experience problems related to a vitamin B12 deficiency, despite appearing to have normal levels of vitamin B12 in their blood. This can occur due to a problem known as functional vitamin B12 deficiency – where there is a problem with the proteins that help transport vitamin B12 between cells. This results in neurological complications involving the spinal cord’.

B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, the vast majority of the injection is excreted via the bowel and bladder within 24 hours. B12 has to be replaced frequently in order to aid recovery of the myelin sheath. Serum levels can remain high for up to four months, this does not mean there is an accessible reservoir of B12 sloshing around the body.

If your GP or nurse continually suggest retesting your B12 levels, ask why? And feel free to refuse unless there is any clinical need. You will be saving your blood and your time and that of your practice too.

• A very high serum B12 level without any supplementation obviously requires investigation and I often wonder if this is where our GP’s are getting mixed up?

Superior treatment for other conditions, a stark contrast 

If you are a diabetic patient, the overwhelming difference in the level of care is plain to see. You will be checked, monitored, consulted. You’ll have regular retinopathy and foot checks. You may be assigned a specialist diabetic nurse and you will be asked how you feel.

You will not have restricted medication, you will be taught and trusted to self inject, and you may even be sent on courses to learn about your condition.

In stark contrast, the majority of B12 deficient patients are discriminated against whilst requiring exactly the same care. All clinicians need to grasp the fact that B12 deficiency is a real and serious condition.

One size treatment cannot possibly fit all

As many of us know and feel keenly, four injections per year cannot correct the body’s starvation of B12, just as only four buckets of water a year wouldn’t help a tree in drought and only four breaths of air wouldn’t help a deep sea diver. One size cannot possibly fit all for many medical treatments.

Reports of widespread pain, poor memory, poor mental health, balance problems, deafening tinnitus, fatigue, and incontinence are totally ignored as if the patient is totally mistaken about the state of their own health. If they happen to have existing diagnoses of fibromyalgia, depression, CFS, diabetes (etc) or they’re menopausal or even a new mum – their symptoms may be attributed to these conditions instead of being recognised as under treatment of B12 deficiency.

B12 injections are safe, life saving, non-toxic and inexpensive. There is no clinical evidence for this restricted regime, it is entirely based upon cost saving audits.

Bizarre letters stop B12 treatment

You can see the situation which affects so many patients from this letter below. These letters which stop vital B12 treatment, are randomly sent out and are expected to be met with compliance despite the fact that without any solid evidence or consultation, it has been decided the patient can miraculously absorb and utilise B12.

tracey letter

The statement “Evidence has come to light that in many cases B12 injections are given too easily, or are inadvertently continued after the loading dose injections.” is ludicrous.

I hope that recipients of these letters ask to see the source of this ‘evidence’ and I wonder what it is. The idea that B12 injections are ‘given too easily’ is a bizarre comment given that so many patients probably feel that completing the Krypton Factor, running ten miles through quicksand whilst wearing high heels two sizes too small, might be an easier challenge than ‘qualifying’ for an essential vitamin injection.

There may be some odd formula for sending out these letters – there is no clue as to why this practice have decided the patients can now absorb B12, what test they used. Perhaps a mistaken reliance upon post injection serum B12 levels to determine that patients have enough B12 and are now ‘cured’ – perhaps even picking names out of a hat?

They state “we need to prove that people cannot absorb the carrier across the stomach membrane.”  The sentence itself doesn’t make sense. What is the ‘carrier’? Do they really believe that by simply telling the patient “You are one of a cohort of patients who have been tested and should be able to absorb B12” the job is done?  They are placing the onus on the patient to prove they can’t absorb B12 without any discussion whatsoever.

There seems to be a movement towards only treating patients who are confirmed to have pernicious anaemia, (this may be what this letter is about). This is totally ridiculous given the many causes for B12 deficiency. Each is serious and each requires treatment by injection unless the deficiency is of proven dietary lack. The reality is that the test for pernicious anaemia (Intrinsic Factor antibody) has low sensitivity resulting in many false negatives. This information escapes too many GP’s.

The sad fact is that some who receive these letters will believe what is written – or may not have the strength to fight for their health.

Deterioration caused by B12 deficiency is slow and insidious, it takes a while to repair the fatty coating of the nerves (myelin sheath). Six injections over two weeks cannot possibly reverse all the damage in every patient even though we all wish they could.

Me and millions of others would be ecstatic to find that suddenly we really could absorb B12 simply because we received a letter saying so – but this letter and all the others like it are complete poppycock, not to mention harmful. As usual in B12 deficiency, the PATIENT IS NEVER CONSULTED, everything is decided without their input.

Oral supplementation for patients who cannot absorb B12 from food would be a futile exercise. We urgently need our clinicians to understand that this can lead to permanent neurological damage, raising serum levels but allowing deterioration to continue.

This letter states that: “If you are taking folic acid then it’s important to take vitamin B supplement to prevent damage” the author is apparently ignorant of the harm that will follow without B12 injections.

The one sensible statement included in the letter is that vitamin B12 “is water soluble and therefore not dangerous to take in excess,” very refreshing.

It is vital that all primary care doctors, nurses ,midwives and specialists in all areas of medicine are educated about the seriousness of B12 deficiency and the fundamentals of nutrition.

If our doctors are unable to feel that they can take clinical responsibility for frequent B12 injections (even though this is what is stated in both BNF and NICE Guidelines) then it becomes even more urgent that UK patients are able to buy injectable B12 over the counter in order to look after their own health.

Isolation and hopelessness

There are many things that patients who are B12 deficient can’t understand about the way they are treated once they become diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency.

Of course some doctors do treat their patients correctly and fully support individualised treatment. For the rest, B12 is restricted and the battle for treatment begins in those who have the strength and/or the support of loved ones.

Some patients believe their GP is correct when told that too much B12 would be harmful.  Others feel forced to accept the situation because their partner or family member insists the GP must know best, finding themselves totally isolated and without hope.

Nobody wants to have to fight for health especially when they are on their knees, mentally and physically.

If you are a patient who needs more B12 and face the challenge of requesting this, taking somebody with you to the doctors for support can be invaluable. Just a squeeze of a hand and reassurance that you are not alone can make the world of difference when trying to communicate how you feel in pleading your case. Writing down what you need to say will help you to remember all your points. The NHS constitution may be a useful tool to help in accessing better treatment for UK readers.

The very least a patient can expect is to be listened to and taken seriously. Ensuring that this happens would make the job of the GP easier and their overall workload lighter, saving the NHS millions. It would be interesting to know just how many appointments are taken up by undiagnosed or under treated B12 deficient patients. Now there’s a research project worth carrying out.

Are you in a situation where you are not being heard and feel isolated? Please don’t give up, join this fantastic support group where you will find help from so many members in the same boat.

REMEMBER this is your life, your health and YOU MATTER. You are the expert on how YOU feel, no one else.

Are you a doctor reading this, do you know how we feel?

How would you cope with your job, family, home if for  only 44 weeks out of 52 you were unable to function? Can you give us your side of the story? Anonymously?

If you can, please email in confidence to tracey@b12deficiency.info.

www.b12deficiency.info Twitter – @B12info Facebook

 

B12 deficiency, the fantasy & the reality

The BBC came to the first day of the 2016 conference and as part of their report they needed to get a ‘balanced’ view of B12 deficiency so they interviewed a GP. This slide below shows the statement provided.

IMG_3100

As you can see, this GP from the RCGP (Royal College of GP’s) has stated that;  “GPs are highly trained individuals and I have absolutely no doubt of their ability to diagnose and thereafter treat vitamin B12 deficiency.”

The fact is that from experience, we know that this is a fantasy, many of our GP’s know that this is a fantasy and I’m sure that even the doctor speaking those words knows that the statement he gave (or was given) is a fantasy.

There is no doubt that GP’s are highly trained – but they are not highly trained in nutrition, and certainly not in B12 deficiency. How can they be when it doesn’t feature in their curriculum?

The stark reality for B12 deficient patients, not just in the UK but globally, is that for the vast majority of clinicians including consultants, doctors, nurses, medical students and even NHS Nutritionists,  education in nutrition is sparse and in the case of vitamin B12, it can be non existent. Even some privately trained nutritionists do not understand the essential need for B12 injections rather than oral supplements in those who cannot absorb B12 from food.

Unless a clinician has a personal interest; suffers from this condition themselves or they have a family member with it,  they very often have no idea of the many causes and symptoms of B12 deficiency or of the seriousness of it. They may be exposed to limited information on just pernicious anaemia which, in reality, represents the very tiny tip of the iceberg.

Myths are learnt or picked up during their careers;

That too much B12 is toxic, that levels over 2000 post injection are ‘dangerously high’

That the symptoms experienced are psychosomatic

That B12 is a placebo and that the more you have the more you want

That 4 injections a year means you have a vast store of B12 in your liver, enough to last you years

That even though you include B12 in your diet, that your deficiency is dietary

That you can now miraculously absorb B12 now because their computer says so.

This is all incorrect.

An example of the reality for many patients is contained in the letter below. This was sent to me (and launched my website www.b12deficiency.info) there are even worse examples contained within the letters page.

You can see from this letter that my GP contacted a gastroenterologist, a ‘Specialist’ who should (in an ideal world) know a little about B12 deficiency and the gut, however, he felt I should see a psychotherapist and be prescribed anti depressants for my B12 deficiency symptoms. He came to this conclusion without ever meeting me. Bizarre practice?

My GP perhaps contacted this gastroenterologist because she felt her own knowledge was not enough or she needed someone else take the responsibility? I feel she was let down by someone else whose knowledge ‘was not enough’ either.

Specialist letter (2)

My GP thought the suggestions in the letter were reasonable until I pointed out that yes, I could spend £50 talking to a psychotherapist but what I would be saying is “I’m here because my GP won’t give me the B12 injections I need.”  I also asked my doctor why she thought her memory was more important to her than mine was to me. Thankfully I was prescribed more frequent B12 injections.

Many people write to me to ask “who is the best specialist for me to ask my GP to refer me to regarding B12 deficiency”. The answer to that can only be; ‘the specialist who understands what it means to be B12 deficient’ and tragically, the experience for so many is that those are few and far between. Too many patients find themselves out in the cold, desperately under treated or misdiagnosed with other conditions simply due to a lack of education and awareness.
Our clinicians have been done a great disservice, it’s complete madness that nutrition is not the biggest part of medical training.
If we look at this from the GP’s point of view and consider the long years of intensive training,  a patient tries to tell them they’re missing something so fundamental.  They might think it ridiculous that this seemingly enormous potential for misdiagnosis of B12 deficiency were fantasy on the patients part. Surely if it was so important then surely it wouldn’t have been missing from their education, it would have warranted in-depth learning and be a part of all modules and not just the couple of hours they may actually spend on the subject?

How can our GP’s look for something they don’t know they should be looking for? If their eyes haven’t been opened by personal experience and their peers dismiss B12 deficiency as a nonsense afflicting hypochondriacs, then the chances are that they might conclude this too.

I want to share this Ted Talk on ‘The Power of Generalism’ by Dr Ayan Panja with you because it served to remind me of the daily challenges and wide ranging skills that GP’s have. Due to the my own experience and that of those who write to me, I am guilty of forgetting this from time to time.

 

In the UK the average GP is allocated around seven minutes to with each patient. This includes listening to the complaint, diagnosing and prescribing. This is unsatisfactory for both parties. Sometimes it is easy to forget the previous kindness and excellence of our individual GP’s when the gaping chasm of knowledge of B12 deficiency looms.

This situation can lead to a drastic change in the patient-doctor relationship. The emails I receive every day very rarely champion the GP or the specialist. They are from desperately ill people who are being, dismissed, under treated and generally given short shrift. This needs to change but the ‘system’ is not making this easy for either party.

There are GP’s who are able to treat B12 deficiency correctly as per patients symptoms, there are others who feel their hands are tied and there are some who presume that they know how the patient feels, better than their patient.

Some enlightened GP’s are fully aware of the terrible hand dealt to B12 deficient patients and if we could all work together on this then our relationships would remain intact.

I feel my job with the website is to help patients to remain under the care of their doctors. In order to do this, some patients have to try and educate, sometimes this is an insurmountable task and patients end up ‘going it alone’. This is far from ideal.

There are ‘powers that be’ in the NHS, the government and other agencies who are well aware of the situation and scale of the B12 deficiency problem. Thousands of us have reported it and there are countless journals spanning decades backing up what we say,  but so far it remains suppressed. The comment from the GP to the BBC bears this out.

By working together we can make a difference.

Best wishes Tracey

www.b12deficiency.info

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/b12deficiency.info/

Twitter – @B12info

If you need any help or information, please email me at tracey@b12deficiency.info

If you are interested in attending next years conference (September) please register your interest via conference@b12deficiency.info

Remember there is no clinical evidence for our restricted treatment – your doctor may not be aware of this and might be inclined to increase the frequency if they were?

http://www.b12deficiency.info/blog/2016/09/28/the-tanks-empty-but-i-can-smell-petrol-so-you-have-90-days-more-driving-ahead-of-you/

 

‘The tank’s empty but I can smell petrol so you have 90 days more driving ahead of you’ …..

If this advice were given by a garage we’d know they were kidding –  but a similar instruction is given in the UK to too many B12 deficient patients regarding their treatment.

NICE and BNF Guidelines advocate a maintenance dose for patients with neurological symptoms is one injection every two months. This is very often ignored and a move straight to a three monthly maintenance dose (after a 6 injection loading dose), is the norm. This is based on NO CLINICAL EVIDENCE whatsoever yet it appears to be set in stone.

I have spent quite some time trying to find the research for the bizarre idea that four B12 injections per year as a maintenance dose is ‘optimal treatment’, since this restricted regime harms those who are in dire need of a nutrient their systems are starved of. The term ‘optimal treatment’ is used to describe our quarterly maintenance dose in a series of GP audits which I blogged about earlier this year.
It was decided that district nurses time could be saved by lessening the frequency of B12 injections given, so this was eventually adopted nationally without any care for the patient. Our UK maintenance dose guidelines are based on cash saving exercises.

At the end of this blog post are the replies I have from various agencies; NHS England, Public Health England, Health Select Committee, British National Formulary, NICE, to the question;

“Please can you show me the clinical evidence which states that the three monthly maintenance dosage for B12 deficiency is optimal treatment.”

You will see that everybody addressed passes the buck and thinks that someone else has this elusive information which so many doctors adhere to. The emails take a circular route which, of course, yield no result whatsoever since there is no clinical evidence.

In a letter to my MP, Sir Bruce Keogh of NHS England stated “Most patients respond well to quarterly injections”, but where is his source?

It’s quite obvious that a great many patients do extremely badly on 3 monthly injections. Patients who email me with the subject line; ’Desperate’, ‘please help’ or ‘Am I going mad?’  And the 1000’s of members of online support groups are also testament to this.

A serum B12 level can show as ‘within range’ for weeks or even months after a single B12 injection or even a single oral supplement.  This can fool doctors into thinking there is plenty of B12 circulating and available to draw upon when, in reality, there isn’t any B12 available to the patient.

If you want to understand the complexities of B12 deficiency then this document on the enterohepatic circulation of B12 will help.

This is what Kevin Byrne (author of the above) states –

“The problem arises when you start to believe that the damage accruing from a long term deteriorative process can be fixed with a handful of injections, and when you take serum levels as a direct measure of the functioning of a distant, complex organic process.”

Many clinicians do not understand that;

• When a B12 injection is given, the majority is excreted via the bladder & bowel within 24 hours.
• B12 is water-soluble, non toxic & costs pennies.
• Progression of nerve damage is inevitable in patients who are starved of B12.
• B12 is vital for life, is required to produce healthy red blood cells and for DNA synthesis.

Both patients and clinicians are being led up the garden path;

The vast majority of GP’s are not fully educated on this very common, debilitating condition and they think they are advising patients correctly based on the limited information they were taught.

There are enlightened doctors who know that 3 monthly injections are a tortuous proposition for many patients they see and they treat appropriately by symptoms.

Worryingly there are also doctors who are informed, who want to treat patients appropriately but feel their hands are tied, either by their colleagues or by even more restrictive ’practice guidelines’ which appear to take precedence over National Guidelines. Or, these doctors are terrified of being reported to the GMC for ‘unusual prescribing’, quite bizarre when what we are discussing is a non toxic essential vitamin.

Evidence of this clinical evidence is nowhere to be found, It simply does not exist. It is a myth generated to save time and money and has had the opposite effect, costing the NHS and in turn society, millions if not billions of pounds. This is due to the inevitable misdiagnoses that occur when doctors fail to understand that four injections a year will never be enough to heal damaged nerves in many patients.

Trying to put a forest fire out with a teaspoon of water would be just as futile.

What other group of patients with a serious debilitating condition would be subjected to the same illogical and harmful treatment regime?

Whilst the vast majority of clinicians lack up to date knowledge of B12 deficiency & whilst treatment of this condition remains so illogically and harmfully restrictive, it becomes even more essential for patients to be able to access injectable B12 over the counter in the UK.

Patients don’t want more injections than they need, they just want to be able to function and get on with life. It is time once again, to shine a very bright light on exactly why UK patients are kept chronically ill and unable to work on this ridiculously low frequency, based on no clinical evidence whatsoever.

If you are in the UK, you can help by sharing this information with your MP and by asking them to contact my MP, Nicky Morgan (nicky.morgan.mp@parliament.uk) so that they can work together on this urgent issue.

Many thanks Tracey
www.b12deficiency.info

Emails below;

To: Health Committee <HEALTHCOM@parliament.uk> (Dr Sarah Wollaston)
Subject: Re: Clinical evidence for B12 treatment

Dear Victoria

Thank you for your email and the link. However you misunderstood my question. I am asking for “clinical evidence” not “clinical guidelines”.
Please can you point me in the direction of the clinical evidence that states that a three monthly maintenance dose of a 1ml b12 injection is optimal treatment for B12 deficiency? I recall Sarah stating to one of her constituents that she is aware of this evidence.

Best wishes
Tracey
www.b12deficiency.info

Health Select committee (Dr Sarah Wollaston)

<HEALTHCOM@parliament.uk> wrote:

Dear Tracey

I have asked Sarah’s office but unfortunately between us all we can’t track this information, you will need to contact NHS England/Department of Health.

Sorry I couldn’t help.

Best wishes

Victoria

Public Health England;

Hi

Thanks for your email to Public Health England. This falls outside our remit, however we are unsure who you should approach. It might be something NHS England can help you with.

Regards

PHE Enquiries.

NHS England:

Dear Tracey

Thank you for your email of 8 August within which you requested information about the clinical evidence regarding the two and three monthly maintenance doses for B12 deficiency.

NHS England is unable to advise regarding this matter and it is recommended you contact National Institute for health and Care Excellence. Contact details are available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance
Further information regarding B!2 can be reviewed at: https://www.nice.org.uk/search?q=b12

I am sorry I am unable to assist you further and trust the information above is sufficient to progress your enquiry.

NICE;
(Please note I cut a whole load of this enormous email out to save you falling asleep – It was the text from the page highlighted)

Dear Tracey

Thank you for contacting NICE.

NICE produces a range of guidance and information products, including clinical guidelines, which are recommendations on how healthcare and other professionals should care for people with specific conditions. Our clinical guideline topics are referred to us by the NHS England. I can confirm that we have not been asked to develop a guideline relating to the care of people with B12 deficiency.

I believe that the resource that you have located is clinical knowledge summary (CKS) on Anaemia – B12 and folate deficiency. CKS are developed by an external company and we work with the publisher to make them available on the NICE Evidence Services website, as a source of advice for health professionals working in primary care, while they may refer to NICE guidance (if there is any that is relevant), they also use many other sources. It is important to note that they do not constitute NICE guidance.

The evidence behind the recommendations in the CKS is presented underneath the recommendations under a subheading ‘Basis for recommendation’. I hope this is helpful.

Kind regards
Janet

(I didn’t find it helpful obviously, they point towards lots of journals who don’t have the evidence we require and to the BNF; here is their response below; )

BNF British National Formulary

Thank you for your email to BNF Publications.

Unfortunately we are unable to access our archives to check what evidence base was used to determine the 3 monthly dosage of hydroxocobalamin.

BNF content will be reviewed in line with the SPCs for future updates of the BNF.

Kind regards,

BNF Publications

You will see from my previous blog on this subject that I also asked all the Marketing Authorisation holders  who provide injectable B12 in the UK where their evidence for the three monthly maintenance dose came from and each of them drew a blank too.

http://www.b12deficiency.info/blog/2016/02/16/uk-b12-deficient-patients-paltry-3-monthly-maintenance-dose-of-b12-injections-is-based-on-cash-not-care/

 

I met Jane Ellison MP in Parliament last week…..

Jane Ellison, Public Health Minister and two advisors kindly spent time listening to the issues facing B12 deficient patients when I met her along with my own, very supportive MP, Nicky Morgan.

I chose to petition Jane as her ministerial responsibilities include; dementia, diabetes, children’s health and school nursing, long-term conditions, health visiting, NHS health checks, preventing avoidable mortality etc. All these categories and more relate to B12 deficiency.

Surprisingly Jane Ellison said that in three years in post she hadn’t heard anything about B12 deficiency and therefore all that I delivered was new to her!

I spoke about the 18,000 odd signatures on the B12 OTC petition, (this asks for our B12 to be made available to purchase over the counter from pharmacies, to bring us into line with so many other countries)  each time it’s signed an email is sent to both Jeremy Hunt – Secretary for Health and Dr Sarah Wollaston; Member of the Health Select Committee.

I spoke about my own personal experience of B12 deficiency and why I feel that both petitions are so vital to the lives of so many who are as yet undiagnosed and those who are currently under treated. I spoke about the 20,000  visits per month to my website of which over 50% are from the UK.

We are all aware that this is a worldwide problem and not just a whine from a disgruntled handful of patients.

I was not allowed to take a paramedic to the meeting with me who would have relayed that around 80% of the calls she attends to are made up from those ‘at risk’ groups; elderly patients who fall, mental health patients, and patients with chest pain.

I also spoke about the petition I have addressed to Jane Ellison herself (to add screening for both B12 and folate to be added to a full blood count) and I left her with some of the many comments left by signers who detail their own delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of B12 deficiency. I also spoke about the low reference ranges of the serum test and of the need to treat patients by symptoms.

It remains to be seen whether or not she is convinced that we have a problem.

Jane Ellison will however, follow in many of our footsteps and write to NICE and to the RCGP and other NHS departments following our meeting. Perhaps a letter from a Minister will make the difference?

I will update you when I hear anything.

I know that so many UK patients have met with or written to their MP’s and to NICE and frankly, to anyone else they can think of who may have either clout or heart.

I hate to ask you again – but for those of you who can muster the energy to contact your MP, please ask them to raise the issues and concerns you outline with both Jeremy hunt MP and Jane Ellison MP then perhaps we can help them to understand the strength of feeling that patients have and the desperate need for change?

If you have already done this, could you please make sure your MP has forwarded the information onward too?

Thanks to all of you who have already emailed me the names of your supportive MP’s. My MP Nicky Morgan will have contacted them – it doesn’t mean they have engaged unfortunately but you could ask!

If we all work together on this, we can make a difference.

Al the best, Tracey

When you can’t remember where you live, or who loves you…..

Our poster boy Jasper has been showing the signs of his advancing years.  He was a rescue so we can’t be sure how exactly how old he is, but he’s at least fifteen.

His eyesight and hearing have been deteriorating for a while so we clap to get his attention. People seeing this think we are congratulating him rather that trying to communicate where we are!

A few weeks ago he suddenly stopped being interested in food, he was noticeably confused, he stopped barking, or making any sound at all.

 

dooby-b12-text-version

He has always loved a particular fluffy sheep toy but he no longer recognised this previously constant companion.

He wanted to be outside a lot, but then could not find his way back in, he would stand in one spot under a tree or would stare at the wall vacantly. He failed to recognise us.

His eating habits completely changed and some days he turned his nose up at everything offered. His co-ordination was also affected and at times he struggled to stand up.

He was very distant and for a normally loving and friendly dog this was a real shock.

Three weeks ago our vet came out to assess him and check he was not in any pain and confirmed he was showing signs of senility.

The first thing the did, was give him a B12 injection.  Stating that he could have these when required.

The following two days were much the same as before but on the third day, we were astounded. He wanted to eat, he was happy, he had stopped wanting to be apart from us, he barked and found and chewed on his old friend the sheep!!  He still moves like an elderly dog, he still can’t see or hear too much – but the essence of him is back.

Of course B12 is not the answer to every ill. It is however essential to life and for those who are deficient, whose systems have been starved of it, it can have a miraculously swift effect. This is what B12 does for those of us in need, it gives us our essence back.

Don’t all dementia patients deserve this chance, before it’s too late – just in case?

B12 deficiency is very common in the older population, for many reasons; one being low stomach acid, not helped by the over medication of PPI’s and other acid suppressants.

There is no routine screening of so many at risk patients and too many elderly B12 deficient patients may be missed when there are guidelines for doctors like these below;

Wouldn’t it be lovely if our doctors were not constrained by such ridiculous and out dated instruction?

The name ‘Pernicious anaemia’ confuses doctors – many patients NEVER present with anaemia/macrocytosis – this is very late stage. NICE and BNF Guidelines still categorise B12 deficiency under anaemia and this needs to change.

Thankfully our vet did not have to concern himself with proving Jasper was anaemic, he didn’t have to wait for a B12 serum test, he knew that this kind of presentation in an elderly dog could be down to B12 deficiency and his injection was given without any hesitation. He can also have B12 injections regularly without any quibbling.

If only B12 deficient humans, of any age, could be treated in the same sensible way as this little old fella, the world for them would be so much less confusing.

For those who may be B12 deficient please see this page;  www.b12deficiency.info/what-to-do-next/

If you feel strongly about the restrictions on our B12 treatment please sign and share this petition

www.change.org/p/ian-hudson-please-make-our-life-saving-injectable-vitamin-b12-hydroxocobalamin-available-over-the-counter

If you believe B12 & folate testing should be added to a Full Blood Count please add your name to this petition too.

www.change.org/p/jane-ellison-mp-parliament-uk-add-testing-for-b12-deficiency-to-a-full-blood-count-help-to-stop-permanent-disablement

 

B12 the Antidote – joining up the dots

We may be exposed to poisonous gases and chemical toxins to different degrees at some point in our lives, whether it be from air pollution, exhaust fumes, pesticides, cleaning products or from faulty or poorly fitted appliances within our homes or workplaces.  Flood, fire and warfare are all situations where potential exposure to toxic gases can occur.

However, B12 in the form of hydroxocobalamin is an excellent toxin scavenger, this means that if you are exposed your levels of B12 could be inactivated and depleted.

Could you be an unknowing victim? Do you have diagnosis of CFS, ME, fibromyalgia, depression, Alzheimer’s and have not had thorough screening for B12 deficiency?

Late last year I met Belinda Goldsmid, she and her family were chronically exposed to products of combustion, including carbon monoxide (CO). It was leaking into their home from a poorly installed and situated boiler flue. This had devastating health and social effects. Continual low level exposure can can lead to chronic ill-health, poor mental health and extremely debilitating symptoms.
Belinda is now experiencing phenomenal improvement of her previous debilitating symptoms with the use of B12 (hydroxocobalamin) injections. Following this, Belinda asked for my help in finding research papers documenting the use of B12 as a treatment for toxic exposure, including the silent killer carbon monoxide.

Maybe the origin or the exacerbation of your B12 deficiency can be traced back to toxic exposure?

For more information please see our new page, www.b12deficiency.info/b12-the-antidote

Belinda was helped by the charity CO Gas Safety, you can find more CO charities here.

If you think you might be B12 deficient the What to do next page is your starting point.

If you want to learn more about B12 direct from Sally Pacholok please see our Conference page

 

UK B12 deficient patients, paltry 3 monthly maintenance dose of B12 injections is based on cash not care!

The question you will be asking of your GP after reading this is ‘show me the proof that 3 monthly injections are all I need’.

The biggest problem B12 deficient patients face once they’ve achieved a diagnosis is desperate under treatment. Our maintenance dose is listed in the NICE Guidelines ‘with neurological involvement’ at two monthly intervals and without at three monthly intervals. Unfortunately many doctors do not take into account neurological symptoms and the patient is automatically placed onto a three monthly maintenance dose of B12 injections after loading doses.

Vitamin B12 is water soluble. The rate of excretion is fast, there is no internal cupboard where we can pop a bit by for a rainy day. If we are lucky and our mother had a good supply of B12, we would be born with a store, but this eventually runs out or stops being accessible for many reasons.

Our maintenance dosage is based upon cost saving exercises and absolutely no care for the patient. Isn’t it time for a change in this old way of thinking?

The fact is that GP audits (and no clinical evidence or patient involvement of any kind) eventually made three monthly injections the ‘optimal’ maintenance dose of B12. These were purely designed to save money and had nothing to do with patient care, this situation needs an urgent overhaul.

It appears that without correct analysis, observation or consultation with patients many of our doctors truly believe we only need four injections a year because this is what has been repeatedly presented to them.

The content of these audits which I detail below, have become an intractable belief and have been cited by later research which then further eroded any good common sense. Worse still, other countries cite UK GP audits in order to back up rationed treatment for their patients too!

There would rightly, be an almighty uproar if every anaemic patient were told that they needed exactly the same amount of iron only 4 times per year, and all diabetic patients were told they need the same dose of insulin quarterly? Surely we’d think it crazy if it was suddenly decided that just 4 doses of vitamin C a year cured scurvy?

This post tries to detail how our three monthly injection regime was arrived at from  the first study and the following three GP audits.

This whole sorry tale below leaves patients without proper care and vital treatment and seemingly ties the hands of doctors.

None of the Marketing Authorisation Holders in the UK use any clinical evidence for ‘optimal dosage of 3 monthly treatment’ and base the information written in their Patient Information Leaflet’ upon BNF Guidelines and the Martindale Drug Reference book. Public Health England, NHS England and NICE have not been able to provide any clinical evidence either.

This is what the BNF said –

Thank you for your email to BNF Publications. 

Unfortunately we are unable to access our archives to check what evidence base was used to determine the 3 monthly dosage of hydroxocobalamin. 

BNF content will be reviewed in line with the SPCs for future updates of the BNF.

Rather like saying ‘the dog ate my homework’ don’t you agree?

No common sense has been applied in these audits and yet people adding their names to these are highly educated. When have patient voices ever been heard and acted upon in B12 deficiency?

• The first paper you see is from 1971 this discusses excessive prescription of B12 and seeks to ‘standardise B12 treatment’.  Like that would ever be appropriate!

• The next report in 1983 carried out in by a Leicester GP training practice. This decides that monthly B12 injections should move to ‘optimal’ 2 monthly frequency. It sets narrow and flawed diagnostic criteria and unfortunately set the tone for the following GP audits and it still largely influences diagnosis today.

• In 1985 a further study from Coventry was published titled ‘B12 injections: considerable source of work the district nurse’ this report tries to address the change from cyanocobalamin to hydroxocobalamin and just 2 years later decided that optimal B12 treatment is three monthly.

• The final audit took place in 1995 again in Leicestershire and this report used the same flawed diagnostic criteria and further reinforced the mad idea that humans only need vital B12 four times a year.

These repeated audits did not allow for GP’s to treat patients as individuals.

None of it is based on science or any clinical evidence – it’s based on pounds. The patients were dictated to, never consulted and neither were the nurses who administered B12 injections.

I have split this post into the four different reports and have highlighted extracts to demonstrate just how ridiculous and harmful they are;


First you will see a report from 1971 that in a study on excessive prescribing, B12 treatment was singled out, possibly due to the idea that GP’s were giving patients B12 injections, willy nilly as a ‘tonic’.

To see the full text follow this link – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC478645/pdf/brjprevsmed00003-0029.pdf

I have chosen some parts to highlight below;

1971 Expected and Observed Values for the Prescription of vitamin B12 in England and Wales

A.L. Cochrane and F Moore M.R.C. Epidemiological Research Unit

(For your info – Epidemiology is the study of how often diseases occur in different groups of people and whyEpidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to prevent illness and as a guide to the management of patients in whom disease has already developed. – I add this meaning since the study below and the following audits, had the very opposite effect on preventing illness in B12 deficient patients.)

This report states;

There is considerable literature about the oddities of the prescribing habits of British doctors, the factors influencing them, and the attitudes of doctors to prescription, but there have been as far as we know, no attempts to compare quantitatively the expected amount prescribed, on the basis of good clinical practice, with that actually prescribed. There are in general three reasons for this ignorance of the prevalence of common diseases, the lack of specificity of particular drugs for particular diseases, and the lack of standardisation of therapy. Such a study requires a drug which is practically specific for one condition whose prevalence is known, and the one which approximates most closely to this appears to be vitamin B12. We should like to stress that B12 was selected for these purely epidemiological considerations and with no malice aforethought. This paper describes an attempt to measure the expected and observed values for the prescription of B12 in England and Wales for the year 1966.

Can we really expect that any B12 therapy can be totally standardised? Aren’t all humans different? Aren’t the severity and the variety of symptoms different in each patient? The length of time the ‘illness’ has progressed undetected surely would be taken into account if logic were applied?

Isn’t the statement ….’with no malice aforethought’ akin to saying I don’t wish to be rude, but….’

Why make a point of such a statement when the irony is that the whole study is designed to cut down on perceived (and not scientifically backed up) ‘excess’ treatment which served to harm patients and did not, by any stretch of the imagination – ‘prevent illness’?

Estimates for observed Prescriptions for parenteral B12

……It is clear that there is a considerable excess of observed over expected.

Reasons for Excessive prescription

a survey of the prescribing habits of a 2000 random sample of general practitioners in England and Wales in 1967 showed that 33% of all prescriptions for cyanocobalamin and hydroxocobalamin in 1967  were for conditions other than ‘pernicious anaemia and other hypochromic anaemias… 

Discussion

We are very conscious of the imperfections of our data……..We are also aware in retrospect that 1966 was not a good year to choose as it was a period of change in ideas about the correct dosage of B12 for pernicious anaemia……
………we still however believe our exercise to have been worthwhile as it has shown how substantial financial saving could be made at no cost to health and a considerable saving of inconvenience to patients, doctors, and nurses.

Is it really an inconvenience to the patient to have a life-saving injection at the correct frequency for them? We don’t think so. But of course by not giving injections money was indeed saved.

No B12 deficient patient wants to have more injections than they need, they simply want a frequency that keeps them well and completely able to function. It has always been a very small price to pay in the grand scheme of things. It would be an even smaller price to pay if;
a – patients were taught to self inject
b – we could buy injectable B12 OTC


This paper from 1983 focuses on pernicious anaemia rather than the many other causes of B12 deficiency, much like today, patients who do not have a definitive diagnosis of PA are considered to be in need of less treatment (or none at all) despite the severity of symptoms being exactly the same.

1983 BMJ Practice Observed Volume 287 –
Audit of the use of Vitamin B12 in general practice.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1549043/pdf/bmjcred00570-0031a.pdf

.……It has been shown that the observed use of vitamin B12 in general practice in England and Wales greatly exceeds its expected use and that it is widely prescribed by general practitioners for non-specific indications. Further evidence suggests the need to rationalise the use of vitamin be 12 in general practice.

…… The aims of the study were (1) To examine the present use of vitamin B12 in our practice and (2) To achieve a more appropriate and efficient use of it.

Method
……..The medical records (FP5,6) of all the patients were then reviewed to identify reasons for the use of B12 and the extent to which diagnostic criteria were established and appropriate management and follow up undertaken. ….. The results of the initial data collection were then presented to all the partners at a practice meeting. All the doctors agreed to change to the criteria identified by the authors, the practice nurses were advised accordingly, and a follow-up collection of data was undertaken.
In all cases where changes in treatment or management or both were introduced the patients received both written and verbal explanations from the practice doctors or nurses or both.

Note that the patients are not consulted they are just dictated to. I wouldn’t mind betting that some of the GP’s and nurses were concerned at this change in treatment being imposed upon them. Note that the nurses ‘were advised accordingly’ rather than being asked their professional opinion as the frontline workers.

Setting standards

In setting standards we decided that our criteria should be explicit – that is, identified before collecting evidence of performance – and that our criteria should be appropriate for British general practice, safe, realistic, and achievable.  In arriving at our criteria we consulted three standard textbooks of medicine (Alstead, Davidson and Price), a consultant haematologist, the librarian at the Royal College of General Practitioners, and the Monthly Index of Medical Specialities.

The following standards were set;

(1) Criteria for the use of vitamin B12
(a) approved value in the treatment of pernicious anaemia only (other conditions are very rare in British general practice).
(b) May be necessary prophylacticly after surgery – four example gastrectomy, resection of the terminal ileum.

For all the good their method of ‘arriving at our criteria’ did for patients, they might just as well have consulted the butcher the baker and the candlestick maker. Note they didn’t consult a psychiatrist despite the link between low B12 and poor mental health being discovered over a hundred years ago.

This reduced regime did not make anything ‘safe’ for patients. In fact it served to  make the situation dire.

This intervention took away the GP’s chance to use deductive reasoning, to draw on experience of the past, to treat the person and not the ‘numbers’. It completely and firmly made treatment of B12 deficiency ‘one size fits all’ and woe betide anyone who does not toe the line. This is why the situation for patients still remains in a sorry state today.

As I said before PA is still thought to be the primary culprit here, other causes of B12 deficiency such as malabsorption caused by metformin, H2 blockers, PPI’s, parasites, etc. are completely ignored due to lack of knowledge.

The prevalence of PA against other causes of B12 deficiency these days is diminished. The genetic problems associated with B12 deficiency are not widely understood amongst health professionals despite their effect on a huge percentage of the population.

(2) Diagnostic criteria for pernicious anaemiathere must be
laboratory evidence of
(a) macrocytic anaemia;
(b) a low serum concentration of vitamin B12 with a normal folate concentration;
(c) a reticulocyte response to B12 treatment.

• All the criteria is based on blood values. We know that macrocytosis is a very, very late stage of B12 deficiency and that severely deficient patients may not present with this sign, the administration of folic acid also masks macrocytosis by normalising the size of the blood cells. Some GP’s still adhere to this criteria and NICE Guidelines bizarrely reinforce it for patients diagnosed with CFS and ME too. Quite ridiculous.

• Why on earth would any one with half a brain think that a high or a low folate concentration negates the need for B12 when the serum B12 level is low?

• We also know that the serum B12 test is inaccurate and cannot tell us what is happening at a cellular level. Using a serum B12 test in a patient on B12 injections to confirm ‘B12 levels are replete’ is incorrect, but it happens. Too many patients have their injections stopped because the doctor thinks they are cured once serum levels are above the low reference range. Unless the cause of B12 deficiency is temporary i.e. parasitic infestation which has been eradicated then treatment will be for life.

(3) Treatment and management Criteria – The optimum dosage is 1000 µg at intervals of eight weeks.

We need frequent B12 in order to keep brain and body healthy. For many patients today this frequency however, would be a miracle.

Results – (Be warned this is a tiny study!)
• 31 patients were in the study, 21 were women, 19 of them were over 65 years old.
• 22 patients (73%) were being treated for PA
• 5 were being treated post surgery.
• 1 for multiple sclerosis
• 2 for diabetes mellitus
• 1 for ‘no discernible reason’

In the interval between the two data collection dates 11 patients had died or left the practice, this included both patients with diabetes.

I wonder what these patients had recorded as cause of death? Of course we can’t know if this imposed reduced frequency had any impact however the word ‘pernicious’ springs to mind.

Vitamin B12 injections had been stopped for the patient with no discernible indications but the person with MS continued to have injections as she had become dependant on them.

Oh dear. Many severely deficient patients today would have ‘no discernible indications’ based on the sketchy criteria used in this survey and absolutely no comprehension of the ‘need’ of the MS patient, rather that she is ‘dependant on them’!

‘In all, in 17 patients injection frequency changed between the two surveys. 

Discussion

We make no claim to have identified definitive an immutable criteria for the use of vitamin B12 in general practice. We believe, however, that the standards that we set for ourselves are not only realistic and achievable but also reasonably reflect the current state of knowledge. We could discover no evidence to suggest that vitamin B12 having effective therapeutic role be on the correction of a specific or potential vitamin B12 deficiency state.

They certainly expected this criteria to be immutable though! The ‘current sate of knowledge‘ has moved on in 30 odd years and yet B12 ‘maintenance dose’ has since worsened.

…. A substantial and necessary reduction in the high number of injections of B12 administered to the patient was also brought about. The average number of injections per patient per year was almost halved 12.7-6.9 by greatly increasing the proportion of patients receiving injections at two monthly intervals 13%-84% the resulting savings in the cost of drugs and syringes, for example, are self evident and enabled nursing staff to devote the time saved to more important activities such as routine monitoring of patients blood pressures.

So this audit achieved its goal, life saving B12 injections were cut, at this point, from monthly to one injection every two months. They saved some cash on syringes and the nurses got to do ‘more important activities‘  – they did routine monitoring of blood pressure. Now I am no medic and although I know that monitoring blood pressure has its merit, but if we were to ask the simple question of ANYONE –‘What’s more important, is it (a) a routine blood pressure check or (b) a life saving injection? I think we can safely say the overwhelming answer would be (b).

In changing the frequency of the patient’s treatment regimens and we were conscious that we were disturbing what for many had become a regular part of their lives, often over many years. We had previously agreed that if any patient show distress at the prospect their current regimen should be continued. In the event no problems were encountered and no increase in consultation rates and ensued. This may have been due to the detailed explanations given to the patients, who were also reassured that no recorded instances of relapse had occurred in a two monthly schedule of injections.

‘No problems were encountered’ – ‘detailed explanations given to the patient’  I’d love to know what these detailed explanations involved. The problem is that patients don’t want to argue with doctors, they don’t want to challenge what they have been advised, they think ‘doctor knows best’.  The majority of patients may well have suffered in silence. REMEMBER there were only 20 patients alive at this point, probably barely alive and unable to cause problems!

Conclusion

… By collecting objective evidence of our use of vitamin B12 the differences between the medical care that we assumed we were providing and the care that we were actually providing we are made of this. This stimulated changes in Doctor behaviour and lead to improvements in our standards of clinical practice and patient care. Furthermore, all doctors agreed to follow the criteria identified in our future use of vitamin B12.

So the conclusion meant that the 2 monthly regime was solidified, the doctors who were previously prescribing to patient need, probably had their wrists slapped for not putting cost first. It also ‘fixed’ the terribly narrow diagnostic criteria.


Tragically this next audit published in 1985 only two years later, makes things a whole lot worse ; –

Putting money before health is a complete disgrace especially when, with a little lateral thinking, there was a perfect alternative solution to ‘the considerable source of work for the district nurse’ detailed below. Instead of teaching the patient/a family member to self treat they decided to just cut  the injection frequency and to hell with the consequences!

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1549043/pdf/bmjcred00570-0031a.pdf

Vitamin B12 injections: considerable source of work for the district nurse 

It’s title should really be ‘arbitrary rationing of B12 injections’.

Abstract

Between June and September 1984, district nurses who worked in Coventry were asked to submit returns giving details of the patients for whom they administered vitamin B12 injections. Of 492 patients identified, 382 (78%) were receiving injections more frequently than the recommended three monthly dose of hydroxocobalamin. And extra 3751 injections were being administered a year. Four hundred and thirty (88%) of these patients have conditions for which the drug is a proven benefit, so the increased frequency of injections accounts for most of the observed excess. A total of 200o hours a year district nurse time is spent with these patients. The nursing services under increasing strain. Changes in vitamin B12 prescribing alone could make between 600 and 1470 hours available for other patient needs.

In the main this audit is trying to address the move from administration of monthly cyanocobalamin to three monthly hydroxocobalamin. Again there appears to be no clinical evidence for such bold statements.

This audit also uses the same flawed diagnostic criteria used in the Leicester study.

Introduction

…..Only a three monthly dose is needed.” It is therefore more convenient for the patient and cheaper by dosage regimen and in the time required of nursing staff to administer injections.

So now, just two years later we have moved to 3 monthly injections – WHY?!

In order to arrive at these treatment regimes you’d think they would have asked and recorded how hundreds of patients felt on this frankly, woefully inadequate level of B12 supplementation, but they didn’t.

Where exactly is the patient centred, solid, qualitative, peer-reviewed research from back when this ridiculously illogical idea originated? NOWHERE.

There is no proof that ‘optimal treatment’ for all UK patient’s is four B12 injections per year and there never will be. FACT.

This study below, published in 1967 carried out trials to determine how long cyanocobalamin and hydroxocobalamin B12 injections lasted before excretion in urine but you can see from their summary that it would be unreliable to assume that one size fits all.

Patient Variation in Pernicious Anaemia, as Shown in a Clinical Trial of Cyanocobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin and Cyanocobalamin–Zinc Tannate
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2141.1967.tb08734.x/abstract

 Variation between patients makes it impossible to anticipate the duration of effect of a single injection of one of these drugs in any patient.

B12 is a complex vitamin, it does amazing work in the body, but it can’t miraculously eek itself out over 3 months, it is excreted quickly as is the nature of all water soluble vitamins. This fact doesn’t change just because someone, somewhere wrote down that we only need four injections a year in an attempt to try to balance the books.

Psychological dependence is often mentioned as a reason for more frequent dosage. Fraser et al, however, reported no resistance by patients to reducing the frequency of their injections. Careful explanation was sufficient reassurance that there would be no untoward effects.

How patronising to dictate such a thing to patients. ‘Placebo’ or ‘somataform‘ are words often used when trying to persuade a patient that they have no need for B12 injections despite the fact they can’t walk or think or breathe without them.

Pressure on district nursing services in Coventry means that there is rationing by decreasing the time available to each patient and by longer patient waiting times. Optimising treatment should be a more acceptable means of rationing.

The word rationing tells us what is really going on here

Even if treatment for such conditions was given “ideally” the saving would be roughly only 18 hours per nurse a year. This is a small absolute amount for an initially understaffed group who cope with an expanding elderly population as well as the consequences of changes in hospital practice. Allied to other improvements in the use of the district nurse’s time it might contribute to appreciable savings.

Money Money Money.

This last paragraph was clearly not kept in mind when decisions on cost saving were made;

District nurses are respected and trusted members of the community health services. Their role in supporting elderly people in their own homes and in preventing handicap is largely undervalued -and unmeasured. Overall, costs for the population of patients in this study are about £18,000 a year. For patients with proven indications for vitamin B12 supplements this represents roughly £42 a year each. In times of high technology medicine and economic appraisal of health care this is a small cost indeed “to save a life.

Remember – they state ‘proven indications’- based on flawed criteria used but the authors here know that B12 injections save lives. The fact is that the frequency of one injection every three months means that the quality of life for many patients is considerably compromised by gross under treatment.

These audits and no doubt countless associated studies, have encouraged GP’s to reduce the number of B12 injections and in some cases stop them altogether. This is harmful, but they think IT SAVES MONEY. Only it doesn’t really does it?

These patients who do not fit the criteria but who remain undiagnosed B12 deficient patients become very expensive for the NHS to look after. Without B12 supplementation, their deterioration may have meant and still means that they would be subjected to countless pricey investigations, scans and procedures, visits to psychiatrists, neurologists, gastroenterologists, and other ologists.

These audits NEVER advise that they will monitor and record the effect on the patient by asking how they feel – only that they may look at blood levels annually, odd isn’t it?

There may well be some patients who feel they do fine on 4 injections per year (or don’t want to say otherwise) – however those patients don’t write to me or join support groups. The point is we are all different. ONE SIZE FITS ALL cannot ever be possible in this situation?


A further nail in the coffin came in another later audit carried out in Leicestershire in 1995.

The message is clear – ‘you are giving too many patients B12 too often. Stop the patients who you don’t think need B12 from having it and those that may need it make them wait a few more weeks. If they whine give them some but tell them they don’t need it, it’s just that they have become dependent upon it’. In a nutshell this is how all the audits worked. They have successfully saved money and harmed patients with no basis of clinical evidence.

http://www.bmj.com/content/311/6996/28

General Practice
Use of vitamin B-12 in Leicestershire practices: a single topic audit led by a medical audit advisory group

I have highlighted key points below but to read full text please use the link above.

Abstract Objectives: To encourage active participation of Leicestershire general practitioners and their staff in audit; to examine the use of vitamin B-12 injections and to achieve a more appropriate use.

Setting: All 147 Leicestershire practices.

Main outcome measures: Participation in the complete audit cycle, comparison of actual use of vitamin B-12 injections with agreed criteria of use, and assessment of improvement in use.

Results:  In total 1714 patients received B-12 injections. Appropriate use increased from 62% in phase 1 to 72% in phase 2 of the audit; there was a 32% reduction in the number of patients inappropriately receiving B-12 (521 to 352), and the proportion of patients receiving B-12 at the correct frequency rose from 58% to 72%.

Conclusion: Our study suggests that single topic audits organised by a medical audit advisory group can encourage large numbers of general practitioners to participate and can bring about changes in behaviour resulting in improvements in standards of care…..

The specific aims were, firstly, to examine the use of vitamin B12 injections in all the Leicestershire practices; and, secondly, to achieve more appropriate and efficient use.

Criteria for treatment and management

• Optimum maintenance dose is 1000 µg at intervals of 12 weeks

• Follow-up annual blood count is required to avoid relapse

You see the obsession with blood values and yet no instruction to listen to patients, some of whom relapse only a matter of days post injection.

Results

…..There was a 32% reduction in the number of patients receiving B12 for non-valid reasons (from 521 to 352). 

….. This study is the most extensive assessment of the use of vitamin B12 in general practice yet reported. It has confirmed the findings are previously that B12 is still used inappropriately.

Nevertheless involvement in the audit stimulate a considerable change in behaviour among participating doctors, leading to subsequent improvement in their use of vitamin B12. For example the use of vitamin B12 for correct reasons improved by 10% (62% in phase 1 to 72% In phase 2) resulting in a 32% reduction in the number of patients inappropriately receiving it (521 to 352). Indeed some practices achieve dramatic change: One practice reduced the number of patients on B12 injections from 53 to just two…..

The proportion of patients receiving B12 injections at the correct frequency also increased by 14% (58% to 72%), which resulted in fewer patients receiving unnecessary injections.

Conclusion

……….It also provides further evidence that participation in audit can bring about change in clinical behaviour leading to improvements in standards of care

I am sure that your average B12 deficient patient wholly disagrees with this conclusion.
You will see that the British audits mentioned above reach and infect other countries……

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1230464/pdf/cmaj_161_2_146.pdf

Use of vitamin B12 injections among elderly patients by primary care practitioners in Ontario

 “although therapy for vitamin B12 deficiency prevents serious morbidity clinical audits in Britain have shown that approximately half of the patients receiving regular vitamin B12 injections do not meet explicit criteria supporting its use and up to one fifth of patients receive unnecessarily frequent injections. “
The situation is totally unacceptable and yet the solution is so easy;
• We need to be listened to and treated based upon our individual need without any  fear of the GP being penalised.
• Those who want to, should be taught to self inject saving time in the practice.

• Our GP’s need to get behind the B12 OTC petition so we can manage our own condition properly removing the cost burden to practices.

If you think you may be B12 deficient please see this page; http://www.b12deficiency.info/what-to-do-next/

If you want to learn more about B12 deficiency as a patient or a healthcare professional please consider attending our conference and hear the truth about B12 deficiency from both medical experts and patient experts.

When rich charities deliberately back the wrong horse, something fishy must be going on….

Do you donate to the Alzheimer’s society?

Has B12 and folate helped your declining memory like it did mine?

Not all of us have these particular symptoms. Those of us who do and have B12 injections and correct folate supplementation regularly enough to help repair the nerves of brain, are proof of the fact that our cognitive decline has halted with this inexpensive treatment.

We as patients are largely ignored on this issue, and so are the scientists who report the same.

Read what Jerome Burne has to say on this issue ;

http://healthinsightuk.org/2015/08/06/policy-on-alzheimers-sure-we-want-a-cure-just-so-long-as-its-not-cheap/

‘Do you believe there is a new drug for Alzheimer’s just over the horizon? That there is no truth in the popular idea that B vitamins might cut your risk of getting this dreadful disease?

Well you are wrong on both counts but it’s not your fault, you’ve quite reasonably fallen for some very sophisticated marketing. Let me explain.

You will be amazed at how tiny the benefit a drug needs to have to be hailed as a breakthrough and how ruthlessly a smokescreen of shoddy trials can be used to obscure the truth about the potential benefits of B vitamins.

This is not biased ignorant pharma bashing; it’s a reasonable conclusion from what has been happening. For instance, compare the enthusiastic way a new drug is greeted, with the low key response to research showing that cheap vitamins might do the job.’

….and what Margaret McCartney has to say; http://www.bmj.com/content/351/bmj.h4064

This is no breakthrough. How did this paper score such extraordinary publicity?’

If you want to learn the truth about B12 deficiency please consider joining us at the conference; http://www.b12deficiency.info/conference-2016/

A couple of research papers for you too;

Cognitive impairment and vitamin B12: a review.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22221769

Relationship of cognitive function with B vitamin status, homocysteine, and tissue factor pathway inhibitor in cognitively impaired elderly: a cross-sectional survey.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23042212

A very bright light at the end of a very long tunnel – Letter 7

The letters page http://www.b12deficiency.info/letters/ is full of examples of poor understanding of B12 deficiency…. but letter 7 is very different!!

If you are struggling to gain access to correct treatment and you have similar problems to this patient, maybe your GP or haematologist could benefit from reading this, frankly, amazingly supportive letter?

‘…….a treated case of pernicious anaemia and subacute combined degeneration of the cord. She requires high doses of hydroxocobalamin to maintain her general well being, i.e. 1mg intramuscularly daily.… I will leave it to yourself to make enquiries and discuss whether her hydroxocobalamin can be fully funded by the NHS.’

 

Many of us have problems with accessing correct treatment. Many of us try desperately to raise awareness of B12 deficiency.

If you want to learn more and know of others who do too, please share the conference information with them – http://www.b12deficiency.info/conference-2016/

Letter 7 Haem-letter-1200

Please note; This letter came to me fully redacted so I have no idea who wrote this letter or which NHS Trust they work for.

B12deficiency.info 2016 Conference 17th and 18th June – Education for all, B12, methylation and thyroid.

I am delighted to announce our second event and Sally Pacholok will be with us again!

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The conference will attempt to address the gaps in the diagnosing and understanding of these conditions and the effects on both physical and mental health.

Please note: This is NOT a two day conference, an identical programme will run each day.

Ticket price £62.00
Includes: Presentations, lunch, refreshments, attendance certificate for CPD and free on site parking.


This conference is for all with an interest in the subjects both personally and professionally.

If you are a patient you will learn more about your condition. If you work with people in any field of mental or physical health then this conference will provide high clinical relevance and an attendance certificate for CPD.

It has been arranged by Tracey Witty of www.b12deficiency.info to promote greater awareness and understanding of B12 deficiency, methylation and thyroid disease.

PLEASE NOTE: There is no sponsorship from, nor affiliations to pharmaceutical or vitamin companies at this event (or throughout www.b12deficiency.info).

The speakers are highly knowledgeable, experienced and engaging. They will discuss the multi-systemic and polyglandular nature of the conditions, diagnosis and misdiagnosis.

Q&A time with the speakers is scheduled.

In addition to our speakers we will hear from three patients who will present their own case studies.

Last years attendees said; – Thanks for organising the excellent conference, the speakers were all very engaging and enthusiastic. I don’t think I have ever been at a conference that so many people stayed until the end, especially on a Saturday!

– I am an acupuncturist and during the conference I realised that my training in B12 deficiency was woefully inadequate. Knowing so much more about B12 and methylation has completely changed my practice!

Meet the Speakers

Sally Pacholok RN BSN
Presentation on –
The effect of B12 deficiency on all body systems. Symptoms, causes, those at risk and common misdiagnoses.

Sally was a licensed Advanced Emergency Medical Technician and worked as a paramedic prior to and during nursing school.

In 1985 aged 22, Sally diagnosed herself with vitamin B12 deficiency, after her doctors had failed to identify her condition. Over the past two decades, she has frequently found untreated B12 deficiency in the patients she cares for and has campaigned to raise awareness of this all too common debilitating neurological condition.

During her presentation Sally will be using case studies to show how b12 deficiency affects people of all ages, including babies and children. She will also be reviewing the pathophysiology, signs, symptoms, risk factors, causes, diagnosis, differential diagnosis and treatment.

Sally’s book inspired Emmy winning film producer Elissa Leonard to produce a documentary on misdiagnosed B12 deficiency in 2011 click to watch. Elissa then went on to produce a feature film based on Sally’s life click to watch.

Anne Pemberton
Functional Medicine Practitioner MSc, PGCE (Autism), RGN.
Presentation on –
Genetic Polymorphisms in Chronic fatigue and Autism: Supporting the role of B12 and Folate and their connection to HPU (Kryptopyrroles).
 

Anne spent the first 25 years of her working life as a registered nurse in cardiac intensive care. Her son’s diagnosis of autism and the lack of medical help was the catalyst for Anne’s decision to retrain as a functional medicine practitioner.

Anne is now the Course Director on the MSc in Nutritional Therapy at the Northern College of Acupuncture in York. She also runs a busy international clinic, with special interest in CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) and autism.

Anne uses nutrigenomics data from 23andme.com alongside appropriate functional testing, in order to establish each person’s individual health requirements. She has co-written the first UK based practitioner nutrigenomics course in the UK which is delivered twice yearly in York and London. Anne has also co-authored a book with Dr Damien Downing ‘The vitamin Cure for Digestive Disease’.

Dr. Afshan Ahmad BSc, PhD.
Presentation on –
The effect of thyroid replacement in patients with ‘normal’ thyroid chemistry and clinical signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Development for Vaccine Research Trust, a charity established in 1982 which supports research into why a group of people present with signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism but continue to have blood tests within the reference range. She co-founded Vaccine Research International Plc and helped Dr Gordon Skinner in his thyroid clinic in Birmingham, working closely with him in his dealings with the GMC. In 2000, they published a paper on the effect of thyroid replacement in patients with ‘normal’ thyroid chemistry and clinical signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Afshan qualified with a BSc degree in Immunology and Microbiology from London University in 1983 and joined Dr Gordon Skinner’s vaccine research group at the Medical School, University of Birmingham in 1985, she completed her PhD in Medical Microbiology in 1999.

Dr Joanne Younge
Associate Specialist Old Age Psychiatrist.
Presentation on –
Audit on B12 and folate deficiency in the elderly.

Joanne graduated from Queen’s University, Belfast, in 1996 and is an Associate Specialist Old Age Psychiatrist in an NHS Trust.

Joanne is a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) Clinical Lecturer at Queen’s University in Northern Ireland. Her main interest is improving care for patients, either through quality improvement initiatives, using Institute for Healthcare Improvement methodology, or audit.

She co-authored ‘CBT for mild to moderate depression and anxiety’ in 2014 and an audit on improving patient safety, ‘The impact of introducing a Lithium care pathway’, was published as an example of shared learning on the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) website in 2015.

The introduction of an electronic care record, with better access to blood results, and improved insight into the potential impact of deficiencies prompted an audit into B12 and folate deficiency in the elderly patients referred to the local service. She is hopeful that the audit, presented at the conference, will have an impact on improving patient care in the future.

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To book your place click here

To read more please visit the conference page.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Tracey