#ProtectTheNHS #SaveLives and #MakeB12OTC

Making injectable B12 available over the counter from pharmacies will help save lives and will help to save money and time for the NHS.

You may have been denied your B12 injections due to COVID 19.

You may have failed to achieve a diagnosis due to your GP’s lack of knowledge of the condition.

You may be struggling with your symptoms due to under treatment of your deficiency.

You may be buying supplies from another country due to lack of treatment from your GP.

You may however, be in the enviable position of being allowed to collect your prescribed ampoule from a chemist and have been taught by your GP Practice to self inject.

Whichever bracket you fall into, can you help?

Do you want to be able to buy B12 OTC from your pharmacy?

Do you want to be able to treat yourself when you need to, rather than when restrictive guidance allows?

NOW is the time to act, to take your future into your own hands and try with me to make B12 OTC.

Our Struggling NHS

The NHS was in trouble long before COVID 19 arrived, it’s been under funded and under threat for a long time. We can all help to make a difference!

As stated in my previous blog there are estimated to be 5.7 million people with B12 deficiency in the UK, which is greater than the population of Finland!

The cost of mental health

Obviously B12 deficiency affects all body systems but lets just focus on mental health as an example.

Each GP appointment costs on average £30 say NHS England with 40% of appointments now involving mental health.

According to the Children’s Society UK there are said to be 16 million people, that’s 1 in 4 of us who will experience a mental health issue at some point in our lives and “the estimated costs of mental health problems in the UK are over £100 billion each year.”

Given that depression and anxiety are common first presenting symptoms of B12 deficiency then it could be that a considerable proportion of this figure may have this very common, easily and inexpensively treated, but commonly misdiagnosed condition.

The NHS state that an under estimate of 49,988 people were detained under the Mental Health Act in the UK between 2018-2019. The cost of an overnight stay on a psychiatric ward is said to be around £400, that’s almost £20,000,000 per night! but clearly this is not the whole financial picture.

The numbers

If just 1% of the 5.7 million people suffer with poor mental health caused by B12 deficiency and are sectioned and detained for 30 days under the Mental Health Act then the cost to the NHS is at the very least £684 million.

Of those thought to be B12 deficient in the UK, consider that if just 0.001% which is 57 people, each had a 30 day section, this would cost at the very least £684,000.

By comparison, if each of those 57 people were able to have a weekly B12 injection, even at the current cost to the NHS which is £8.80 per box of 5 ampoules, (£1.76 each), then each person’s cost per year would be only £91.52. So the cost for 57 people just £5,216.64.

I personally know 4 people who have had extended stays in mental health units averaging 4 months. Each of these people are B12 deficient, two were sectioned prior to diagnosis and two were sectioned when on restricted 3 monthly B12 injections. Three of them now self treat by buying online at a cost of around 60p per ampoule and are now doing really well. But how long will we be able to buy from online pharmacies with Brexit looming?

The cost of just one of these people hospitalised for 4 months reaches at least £48,000. These figures are of course a gross under estimate of the actual cost of a section under the Mental Health Act. At the very least the cost of the initial assessment and the time of 2 doctors required for detainment would need to be added. And in some cases there might be the cost of an ambulance and its team, the police, a social worker, a Crisis Team, and sometimes even a locksmith.

This of course can never reflect the impact of the emotional cost to the person detained, to their family and friends, their personal financial losses, their inability to work, potential loss of career, continued need for mental health support and the wider cost to society as whole.

Get involved!

Will you help?

This interactive tool from the Go Compare Bill of Health explained by Net Doctor allows you to add up your own cost and contribution to the NHS.

Consider calculating your B12 deficiency related costs and emailing any of the following with your B12 story and why you think injectable B12 should be made available over the counter, as it is in many countries in Europe and around the world:

The MHRA – engagement@mhra.gov.uk 
Your MP – Find your MP’s email address
The health minister – matt.hancock.mp@parliament.uk
The chief medical Advisor – c.whitty@nhs.net

You could also email marie.turner@dhsc.gov.uk. Marie wrote to me from;

The Department of Health and Social Care which in their words “helps people to live more independent, healthier lives for longer. It leads, shapes and funds health and social care in England, making sure people have the support, care and treatment they need, with the compassion, respect and dignity they deserve.”

Marie wrote;

“Ms Witty has corresponded with the Department on this subject over a number of years, and it may help if I summarise the advice we have provided to her over this time…….

Ms Witty believes there are fundamental problems with the diagnosis and treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anaemia. When vitamin B12 deficiency has caused anaemia, its diagnosis is not generally difficult, and the Department is not aware of significant problems of under-recognition.”

Obviously the age old problem of incorrectly assuming anaemia is always present with B12 deficiency rears it’s ugly head in this letter, but it’s the bold text I’d like you to write to Marie about because she needs to know that as we are fully aware, B12 deficiency is absolutely under recognised, under treated and continually misdiagnosed to the detriment of the NHS and society as a whole.

If you need a little help with your email please find sample text here.

Your voice matters!

Best wishes,

Tracey
www.b12deficiency.info

Please consider signing and sharing the B12 OTC Petition.
PLEASE NOTE make sure you don’t pay to sign, the money goes to Change.org and not to the cause you are supporting.

 

Gloucestershire treatment algorithm is harmful and at odds with NICE

Gloucestershire is a beautiful county – but like the villages in Midsomer Murders, a potentially harmful place to live if you need B12 injections and your GP follows this Primary Care Management Treatment Algorithm. (4th section down).

How many B12 deficient patients are at risk of permanent damage in this area? How many struggle with poor mental health? How many are bed bound, confused, living in pain believing that their B12 deficiency is being ‘treated’ so wondering what on earth is causing their body and mind to feel like it’s shutting down?

There are threads on Twitter of doctors from Gloucestershire proudly sharing this treatment algorithm and feeling really smart because they were ahead of the COVID 19 curve in giving just about everybody oral B12 supplements.

It’s all in your mind…

I’ve heard of many patients being told that their debilitating symptoms can’t be due to B12 deficiency. That it’s more likely to be due to their age, their lifestyle, or the fact they have young children, or a stressful job, or – and this is the worst, that it’s all in their “imagination”.

So the long suffering patient is either sent to hospital to see every other Tom Dick or Harry in a network of ‘ologists’ often waiting months for appointments in order that it satisfies the urge of the GP to pin the symptoms on ‘something else’ because ‘it won’t be B12 deficiency causing the symptoms because your serum levels are really high at 200pg/ml.”

My own deficiency could have been ignored if I’d lived in this area. You’ll see they don’t appear to bother with people with serum level’s over 180pg/ml. I was diagnosed with a level of 216 (reference range of 220 -771). I wouldn’t even be worthy of the GP looking at the chart despite my many presenting symptoms. The problem of differing reference ranges of B12 levels has been well documented and the BMJ state that there is no ideal test and that the clinical picture is of utmost importance.

Terrifying isn’t it?

What’s really worrying about B12 deficiency and the way it is handled by those who have little knowledge of it, is that the patient very often starts off in the dark and then remains in the dark because they ‘trust’ that their GP is ‘all knowing’. They don’t consider that the information their GP has imparted is not complete, not properly informed, not helpful. They then deteriorate, but don’t question their treatment, don’t ask Dr Google, don’t seek more information because they have been either pushed down another path for a further red herring diagnosis or just simply ignored.

How to start treatment with B12 injections in Gloucestershire using this algorithm: 

  1. Your B12 has to be lower than 180pg/ml
  2. You must have neurological symptoms (on their list)
  3. You must have macrocytosis and anaemia
  4. You must be positive for anti intrinsic factor antibodies – (but after loading you will be put on oral tablets!)

But if you are not presenting with the list of ‘allowed neurological symptoms’ i.e. those recognised by your GP – and you have no anaemia (which by the way, is not always present and can be a very late stage symptom) then, even if your result falls between 150-180 – the GP is instructed to:

“Reassure the patient that this is unlikely to be of concern. Recheck serum B12 after 3 months, if still low, monitor B12 level every 6 months for 1 year and then annually for 2-5 years.” 

Now I’m no rocket scientist but even I know that this is pure bonkers. It still offers no treatment.

B12 deficiency comes in all shapes and sizes, with many causes and many symptoms

If I use my own case as an exercise of using this algorithm here: –
My level was 220, I had no anaemia, no IFA, no neurological symptoms that they list, but I was losing my memory, I had bowel and bladder problems, blurred vision, insomnia, anxiety, low back problems to name a just a few and yet I wouldn’t warrant treating. I dread to think how quickly I would have been confined to a care home with early onset dementia if I had been ‘cared for’ here.

Even if I had PA, if my GP had used this chart I would be placed onto oral tablets following the loading dose. This is complete madness. (Please see more on the low quality evidence on oral supplementation  here)

If my deficiency had been caused by malabsorption due to a drug such as metformin for diabetes I would have been advised to take calcium supplements or increase dietary calcium but would not be  given B12 injections in fact I would only be allowed B12 oral tablets. This is totally bizarre, misinformed guidance.

Where is the patient?

At no point does this algorithm suggest LISTENING to the patient or considering the clinical picture. The patient doesn’t exist here, just blood forms and it’s completely wrong.

The only tiny mention ‘people’ get here is the suggestion that buying oral supplements over the counter may be cheaper than the NHS Prescription charge. WOW.

This algorithm is at odds with NICE guidance and is a ridiculous home-made protocol which won’t work for the vast majority. It’s time for Gloucestershire to start following good practice for patients.

What NICE state:

  • Not thought to be diet related — administer hydroxocobalamin 1 mg intramuscularly every 2–3 months for life.
  • Thought to be diet related — advise people either to take oral cyanocobalamin tablets 50–150 micrograms daily

So what can be done?

If you are in Gloucestershire – (or anywhere else this is happening), why not take action to make change? Your voice counts and you absolutely matter.

Why not contact;
The Expert Patient Programme – (The EPP is an NHS initiative to improve the lives of those living with long-term conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, lupus, epilepsy, ME, arthritis, fibromyalgia or heart disease). NHS Gloucestershire offers the Expert Patient Programme (EPP) which you can access by telephone on 0300 421 1623

B12 deficiency is a long term condition, you have a lot to offer, make sure you are represented! Get you voice heard here and ask for their help.

Healthwatch
You could also call Healthwatch Gloucestershire on 0800 652 5193 tell them your story, ask for their help in accessing correct treatment.

Write to your CCG, why not email your MP and maybe send them this blog? Why not ask your friends and family to do the same?

The BSH have recently bowed under public pressure let’s help Gloucestershire to do the same here, make your voice count!

Don’t let your GP take you down Folly Lane, there is no time for foolishness or delay in treating B12 deficiency, time is of the essence and you deserve every chance possible of repairing your nerves.

Very best wishes

Tracey
www.b12deficiency.info

If you think you might be B12 deficient please click here, and please try not to supplement before testing.

Please add your signature here if you would like to support making B12 OTC in the UK – Please DO NOT pay to sign! Any money given does not go toward the cause you are supporting.

 

Now is the time to make B12 injections OTC, GET INVOLVED, email the MHRA with me!

What’s the kindest, simplest and cheapest way forward with B12 injections?

By removing barriers and making B12 injections available over the counter, that’s what. Simple.

Will you join me in emailing the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – Gov.uk) so we can make this happen?

This one act would save lives, unburden the NHS, free up time in GP Practices and give a sense of peace and wellbeing to B12 deficient people across the UK.

After all dear regulators:
B12 is safe – B12 is inexpensive – B12 cannot be over dosed
We are adults, we can do this, we will be fine.

YOU CAN TRUST US!

Lets remove barriers and make B12 injections available OTC.

There are estimated to be 5.7 Million people in the UK with B12 deficiency, this is more than the entire population of Finland! Just imagine this many people being allowed to look after themselves, inject when needed and no longer feel a burden or irritant to the NHS. Just imagine the enormity of the potential financial savings, to the NHS and to society as a whole.

Our current situation
The COVID 19 pandemic has made a great many B12 patients feel that they don’t matter, that our health system doesn’t care. The recent letters received by many patients from their GP Practices show just how little so many health professionals understand about B12 deficiency. You can read more about the impact here along with bizarre changing advice for GP’s here and the patient comments at the foot of previous blogs.

The NHS 

Just about everybody in the UK knows of someone who works for the NHS and fully appreciates what they are up against. The very last thing anyone wants to do is make things worse but the situation some B12 deficient patients find themselves in currently is intolerable.

Some GP’s are helping patients to self inject,(as instructed by the BMA) but others are point blank refusing to engage at all with their anxious, depressed and desperate patients. Some feel they have no choice but to buy injectable B12 from abroad to keep themselves safe. This can’t be right can it?

After all ‘B12 clinics’ hairdressers and beauty therapists can get away with selling B12 injections at vastly inflated prices as a “health boost” or “health benefit’ when the real price of the ampoule is around 60 pence. Isn’t this odd when those of us who need it as a ‘medicine’ can’t buy it safely from pharmacy in the UK when many other nations can?

The MHRA are the organisation who hold all the cards, who can help us to make this happen, they are the people we are petitioning to make B12 available OTC.

The solution?  MAKE B12 injections available OTC. SIMPLE.

What we need is an urgent reclassification of B12 injections from Prescription-only medicine (POM) to pharmacy (P) medicine  this could and really should be easy, especially now when it seems these days, hard fast rules can change with a blink of an eye.

Years ago I wrote to all the Marketing Authorisation holders of hydroxocobalamin in the UK. I know that to reclassify our B12 injections from a POM to a P would usually require some form filling an exchange of funds and removal of the over riding one small, but obstructive statement in the current legislation, detailed below.

I was told; “Before a medicine can be reclassified from POM to P, Ministers must be satisfied that it would be safe to allow it to be supplied without a prescription. This means that it is a medicine which no longer meets any of the following criteria (Human Medicines Regulations 2012, regulation 62(3)).

This below is one of the criteria which applies in our case and what so far has stopped us from buying B12 injections OTC and self treating.

3 (d)is normally prescribed by a doctor or dentist for parenteral administration.

During the present crisis, wouldn’t now be a sensible time to cut through the red tape for the good of all and future-proof our access to this essential medicine?

You can find the Reclassification criteria here

and  HOW TO CHANGE THE LEGAL CLASSIFICATION OF A MEDICINE IN THE UK 

The underlying principle for classifying medicines is to maximise timely access to effective medicines while minimising the risk of harm from inappropriate use.

Making medicines available over-the-counter: the trade-offs (see page 4)

You see, our B12 injections are perfect for this!

 

More from the MHRA, they say:

Public and professional input
We are committed to widening access to medicines for the benefit of public health when it is safe to do so, and we are seeking input from patients and health professionals into the reclassification process. In addition to safety considerations, a key factor in the reclassification process is focusing on issues that matter to patients and health professionals. In order to understand those issues we run stakeholder groups and public consultations.

So here’s your call to action!

On this page the MHRA ask patients to get involved, inviting us to email them, they state:

Get involved!
“We would like to hear from patients with an interest in medicines and self-care, and community pharmacists, GPs, nurses and healthcare professionals who are currently working in a patient-facing role and who are willing to reflect on professional issues and attend a short meeting if required. If you are interested in taking part, please email engagement@mhra.gov.uk We will keep your details and contact you when a specific product is under discussion.”

So PLEASE do this! Ask them to help us to access what we need and to remove the barriers to our well being.

Please email them, engagement@mhra.gov.uk telling them why you want Hydroxocobalamin B12 injections reclassified.

You can cut and paste the sample text below by using this link:

Please urgently reclassify Hydroxocobalamin B12 injections from a POM to a P.

COVID 19 has meant cancelled or restricted injections for B12 deficient patients even though Hydroxocobalamin is listed as an essential medicine by WHO

Please see; https://www.b12deficiency.info/blog/2020/04/18/covid-19-is-leaving-b12-deficient-patients-unprotected-traumatised/

Please see this petition for all the many reasons why they should be made OTC:

https://www.change.org/p/dr-june-raine-please-make-our-life-saving-injectable-vitamin-b12-hydroxocobalamin-available-over-the-counter?

Please remove the barriers to me being well. B12 is safe, I cannot overdose. I am an adult. Trust me as others in the world are trusted to self inject.

Yours sincerely ………………

 

Please get involved and make your voice count! Just think of the relief for all concerned if we could be in charge of our own healing.

Best wishes
Tracey

www.b12deficiency.info

If you haven’t signed yet please join the 90,567 people who have.

COVID 19 is leaving B12 deficient patients unprotected & traumatised….

Gradually, everything that was remotely protective for B12 deficient patients appears to be being deleted, eroded and changed to suit those who seem intent on switching us permanently to tablets which won’t help to repair nerves.

B12 supports the immune system, it is vital for life, injections are required to keep those of us who cannot absorb B12 from food well and functioning. The WHO list hydroxocobalamin as an essential medicine. Humans simply cannot live without it and should not be forced to, but that’s what’s happening now.

Those having injections regularly cannot absorb B12 from food, it is not dietary lack that brought them to their knees it was one of the other many causes of B12 deficiency.

Many are terrified to challenge their GP’s, many who have asked to be allowed to self inject have been ignored. Nurses are calling patients for their agreement to permanently switch their future treatment to tablets only. This must be resisted at all costs, see why below. Patients are already traumatised by COVID, separated from their loved ones and then have to deal without vital treatment because of a distinct lack of understanding of this very common and commonly misdiagnosed condition.

Things are changing day by day and there is no one sensible source of information for our GP’s. Some patients have had letters stating the GP’s are following advice from Public Health England, NHS England, CCG’s, etc and some even say ‘advice from Europe’.

 

The situation is an absolute disaster and needs sorting fast.

Patients need vital injections

Patients can be taught to give injections, we can be trusted, we are adults

Patients can then function, can do their Key work, can look after their families, can maintain mobility, can reduce pain levels and keep mental health problems at bay.

The BMA (British Medical Association) March

In March the BMA produced a traffic light workload prioritisation table for the RCGP.

Stating:
………Past experience has shown that patients will die from non-COVID-19 related illnesses in addition to COVID-19 itself as we divert all of our health care resources towards it (1). General Practice has a huge role to play in maintaining the underlying health of our population in an attempt to prevent this. It is vital that we continue to provide care to all patients if we have the capacity, with workloads stratified to ensure that those at greatest need are prioritised.”

It uses the following headings:

GREEN – CONTINUE      AMBER – IF POSSIBLE       RED – STOP

B12 injections are under Amber as follows;

“Vitamin B12 injections – consider teaching appropriate patients to self-administer and ensure frequency is not more than 12 weekly”

(Not more than 12 weekly eh? That’s not what NICE say – see below!).

BMA April

B12 injections have since been downgraded by the BMA and the headings have been changed, only a few are now considered “Medium Priority” as of April the 10th 2020.

Amber – Medium Priority

“Vitamin B12 injections for post bariatric surgery patients – consider teaching appropriate patients to self-administer and ensure frequency is not more than 12 weekly. Review whether oral supplementation would be appropriate”.

Red – Lower Priority

“Vitamin B12 injections – consider teaching appropriate patients to self-administer and ensure frequency is not more than 12 weekly. Review whether oral supplementation would be appropriate if asymptomatic with a dietary deficiency ” BMJ 2019 https://www.bmj.com/content/365/bmj.l1865

The question is, why during this crisis, isn’t our immunity boosting, life saving vitamin injection for people who can’t absorb B12 from food in the Green band? It simply doesn’t make any sense.

This is what NICE CKS states, that if B12 deficiency is;

Not thought to be diet related — administer hydroxocobalamin 1 mg intramuscularly every 2–3 months for life.
Thought to be diet related — advise people either to take oral cyanocobalamin tablets 50–150 micrograms daily between meals, or have a twice-yearly hydroxocobalamin 1 mg injection.

British Society for Haematology (BSH) is moving goal posts; 

BSH advice during the COVID19 pandemic now decide that those of us who rely on B12 injections can now access our non existent liver stores, here’s an excerpt below;

Liver stores last for a year and hence levels of B12 will not be affected if one to two 3 monthly injection is omitted in patients on maintenance parenteral  B12 supplements.  BSH supports omitting B12 injections even in this group during COVID19 outbreak at least until the surge has passed.

For patients who report symptoms in the weeks  preceding B12 injection, oral B12 50-150 micrograms per day can be offered as an alternative because there will still be sufficient absorption.  If still very symptomatic then B12 injection can be given with clear understanding that the interaction with healthcare increases transmission risk of COVID19. We suggest taking the opportunity to measure B12.

FAO/WHO 2001. Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements. Chapter 5.
“…..Interruption of this so-called enterohepatic circulation of vitamin B12 causes the body to go into a significant negative balance for the vitamin. Although the body typically has sufficient vitamin B12 stores to last 3-5 years, once PA has been established the lack of absorption of new vitamin B12 is compounded by the loss of the vitamin because of negative balance. When the stores have been depleted, the final stages of deficiency are often quite rapid, resulting in death in a period of months if left untreated.” 

 

Oral B12 research 

Patients during the crisis are now regularly told that they can in fact absorb B12 from cyanocobalamin tablets and yet:

A review from Cochrane; (Wang et al., 2018) details this: …… 

No study reported on clinical signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency (e.g. fatigue, depression, neurological complications), health-related quality of life, or acceptability of the treatment scheme.”

Authors’ conclusions:  “Low quality evidence shows oral and IM vitamin B12 having similar effects in terms of normalising serum vitamin B12 levels, but oral treatment costs less.  We found very low-quality evidence that oral vitamin B12 appears as safe as IM vitamin B12.  Further trials should conduct better randomisation and blinding procedures, recruit more participants, and provide adequate reporting.  Future trials should also measure important outcomes such as the clinical signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, health related-quality of life, socioeconomic effects, and report adverse events adequately, preferably in a primary care setting.

The Difficulties With Vitamin B12

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27009308/?i=5&from=b12

A 22-year-old woman presented with progressive sensory ataxia and optic neuropathy. Previous investigation by her general practitioner had found a low serum vitamin B12, which had been corrected with oral supplementation. Neurological investigations showed raised plasma homocysteine and methylmalonic acid towards the upper limit of normal with a low serum vitamin B12 MRI showed an extensive cord lesion in keeping with subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord. We treated her with high dose parenteral vitamin B12 and she has made a partial recovery. We discuss the management of patients who present with neurological manifestations of vitamin B12 deficiency; highlighting the fact that parenteral replacement is needed in such cases, even if the serum vitamin B12 level appears to be normal. We also discuss ancillary investigations that should be performed in patients with suspected vitamin B12 deficiency.

Caution note from the B12 institute about oral supplements .

____________________________________

Everyone making the rules is watching the smoke but not one is seeing the fire…..

People in crisis sometimes make bad decisions and stopping B12 injections is one of them, it’s short sighted and harmful and there will be a price to pay if things don’t change soon.

A simple solution would be to allow us to buy injectable B12 OTC as is allowed in many other countries, which leads me to my next blog.

Best wishes and keep safe
Tracey

www.b12deficiency.info

(Thank you Dr Katie Brooks for finding WHO ref)

B12 cancelled. See you in six months…… if you make it

Some might say this title is dramatic, but those who are currently denied access to B12 injections, who are panicked to within an inch of their lives with coronavirus and who now have no essential vitamin B12 treatment, would probably feel it’s a completely reasonable statement.

Being expected to cope for months on end without your safe, cheap, effective and life saving injections would be like making someone climb up Mount Everest without any shoes or coat whilst carrying a donkey on their back.

I know of no other vital, life saving medicine that has been stopped during this crisis and I can’t imagine that any other group of people in the UK are being denied such an easy, quick treatment at this time.

 

 

A bleak 6 months ahead

This letter below, sent to a whole county might make the untrained eye think that it’s perfectly reasonable to stop B12 injections and give B12 tablets for six months….

Letters, emails, phone calls and texts like these are being received all over the UK, I have seen them from Lancashire, Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, Hertfordshire, Cheshire, Leicestershire, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Flintshire, Cardiff, Essex, Wolverhampton, Cornwall, North Yorks,  west Lothian, Midlothian, Aberdeenshire.

Here’s the text from the first paragraph;

We are writing to you on behalf of your GP in regards to your B12 injections. As from Monday, the 30th of March we will no longer be giving B12 injections to patients therefore all our future appointments have been cancelled. This is as a result of coronavirus and our aim is to protect you as well as our staff. We will restart the injections once the current measures are suspended.

Do you see the sneaky stuff in there?

What is ridiculous to B12 deficient patients is this totally incorrect and bizarre idea that we can access stores of B12. We can’t and that’s why we’re B12 deficient and why we need regular replacement, this simple fact needs to be understood.

The last bullet point is the real kicker. The uneducated clinicians will say, “you don’t have Intrinsic factor antibodies (IFA) so you don’t have pernicious anaemia (PA) and so you will stay on tablets because we decided you can now miraculously absorb B12 from food!” This ludicrous concept crops up frequently (I have blogged about it before here.) It needs repeating so often – PA is just one of many causes and they are all serious and need correct treatment.

It seems they’re going to try and say you don’t need injections by testing your serum levels after they’ve given B12 oral tablets that simply can’t replace the benefit of B12 injections. They’ll do this by saying “your serum B12 levels are high now so you must be well” whilst ignoring the fact that you’re a depressed, exhausted, broken heap on the floor.

Most of us are in a state of panic at the moment, but imagine having anxiety levels through the roof and then being told you can’t have your life-saving medication for six months because someone ignorant of your condition has decided that YOU don’t matter. Not for six months anyway.

Some people were already on their knees when their injection was cancelled because the last one they had was in December, how exactly are they supposed to function? Some of these people are key workers expected to ‘soldier on’ until they collapse, some are parents thrust into 24/7 child care whilst trying to hold onto a job or their businesses by a thread.

Bay Medical Group (For Happier Healthier people!) have added this clumsy and unhelpful Q&A to their website entitled B12 Switch to oral medication.

Tidal wave of future problems

It’s impossible to expect there to be no mental or physical health casualties among those with B12 deficiency if the only provision for them is a tablet that won’t work to heal nerves or reduce symptoms but will raise serum levels.

Many of us feel like we’re currently living inside the most bizarre film set of all time, but it is also feels a bit like a ridiculous black comedy for some with B12 deficiency.

Many of our GP’s are unaware of the mental health aspect of B12 deficiency despite depression being one of the most common symptoms.

Without B12 injections we can’t function, we can’t remember, can’t walk, can’t feel happy, can’t think, can’t hear, can’t speak properly, can’t live fully.

How are the people with returning psychosis supposed to cope? How are their loved ones expected to manage this severe symptom which is an every day reality in untreated B12 deficiency in either their child, sibling, mother or father?

We’re all told to look after our mental health during this period but these incomprehensible restrictions are making things so much worse than they need to be.

Even people without previous mental health problems are having them surface during this period of isolation. The mental health charity Sane are warning that the Coronavirus could lead to a mental health epidemic.

Cutting essential, cheap, effective treatment for thousands of people through a lack of understanding of a common condition is beyond foolish. In fact it’s a time bomb and there will be guaranteed casualties amongst B12 deficient patients who only take oral tablets during this period.

The WHO

The World Health Organisation states the following in their document Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak 

The following directives are appropriate for those with B12 deficiency; –

Messages for team leaders or managers in health facilities:-

16. Manage urgent mental health and neurological complaints (e.g. delirium, psychosis, severe anxiety or depression) within emergency or general healthcare facilities. Appropriate trained and qualified staff may need to be deployed to these locations when time permits, and the capacity of general healthcare staff capacity to provide mental health and psychosocial support should be increased (see the mhGAP Humanitarian Intervention Guide).

17. Ensure availability of essential, generic psychotropic medications at all levels of health care. People living with long-term mental health conditions or epileptic seizures will need uninterrupted access to their medication, and sudden discontinuation should be avoided.

Messages for older adults, people with underlying health conditions and their carers

22. Older adults, especially in isolation and those with cognitive decline/dementia, may become more anxious, angry, stressed, agitated and withdrawn during the outbreak or while in quarantine. Provide practical and emotional support through informal networks (families) and health professionals.

24. If you have an underlying health condition, make sure to have access to any medications that you are currently using. Activate your social contacts to provide you with assistance, if needed.

People who can only keep their psychosis and depression caused by B12 deficiency at bay with B12 injections should surely be considered here?

B12 (hydroxocobalamin is listed as an essential medicine by WHO (see page 19 here) but it seems this is not understood by many GP’s.

Injection discrimination 

There are often comparisons made between insulin and B12 injections and whilst everybody understands that insulin is essential and required by each patient in different amounts some health professionals mistakenly think that B12 is a placebo, a frivolous want for lazy people with hypochondria and Munchausen’s Syndrome. They also think that we all need the same measly amount regardless of our symptoms and level of damage. B12 is as important to patients as insulin is to diabetics.

Our friends and family outside of the B12 world see our predicament as bizarre, they ask us the following questions about B12 injections: –

Are they life-saving YES

Is it expensive NO

Can you overdose NO

We can ask the same of questions about insulin: –

Is it life-saving YES 

Is it expensive YES

Can you overdose YES

Can you imagine the outrage if insulin were stopped for six months?

Methotrexate, heparin and insulin are all automatically given to patients to self inject at home, but all these are medications which need strict control, in contrast B12 injections (hydroxocobalamin) cannot be overdosed.

Immediate Solutions  

B12 is essential, if you are prescribed B12 injections then it means you cannot absorb B12 from food so oral tablets won’t work.

The British Journal of Haematology state:

“The use of high dose oral cyanocobalamin is licenced for use in several countries….however the efficacy and cost-effectiveness…is yet to be established.”

And I am stating:

Vital treatment should not be restricted or stopped.
We are not in a war.
There is no shortage of B12.

We of course appreciate that GP Practices are under huge pressure at the moment and that many are experiencing staff shortages but there is always a way around these problems.

Practices need to reinstate B12 injections for anyone who is well and can get to the surgery or prescribe B12 ampoules and sub cutaneous needles for people to collect from a pharmacy so that they, or someone close to them can give them their vital injection. (Sub cutaneous injections would be most sensible for patients to use and are the route most who self inject choose, myself included.)

We need our doctors to get behind this movement so that they and the Practice nurses can be freed up from giving injections to those who can inject themselves.

For the sake of the GP’s and nurses who are too busy to teach you to self inject, here are some helpful NHS guides below;

Self injection with sub cut;

https://www.qegateshead.nhs.uk/sites/default/files/users/user53/gynaeoncology/IL426%20Subcutaneous%20Self%20injection%20for%20anti-coagulation%20treatment.pdf

Link for how to break an ampoule and load syringe;

http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/sites/vetscience/documents/clinical-skills/How%20to%20Open%20a%20Glass%20Vial.pdf

We need to be concerned about those people who are unable to function due to lack of B12 but who daren’t insist on treatment, those who quietly accept that their essential injection has been stopped. Our GP’s must be vigilant here and check on those at risk because they don’t want to, or feel they shouldn’t make a fuss.

Petition – Doctors, help us to get off your backs!

I’ve had numerous emails and comments detailing particular struggles with the denied access to B12 from all ages and the one solution which could make this situation better now and in the future is to make injectable B12 available over the counter from pharmacies. This would remove an enormous financial and time burden from the NHS, and GP Practices and would allow the panic to, at least partially, subside in hundreds of thousands of people in the UK.

If your doctor is on our side (I know that some are) please ask them to support this petition and share it with their colleagues.

Please consider joining the 89,000 + kind people who have already signed and shared our Petition.
(Please note: Every time you sign a change.org petition you will be asked to ‘Chip in’ money, but be warned, this money goes directly to the very wealthy change.org company and not a penny goes to the cause you might support.)

If we can get The MHRA and other NHS agencies to help us at a time where barriers are being removed then the tidal wave which is already gathering speed could be slowed.

Removing barriers

On Twitter, there’s evidence that some doctors are celebrating the fact that during this crisis, barriers that made their patient’s and their lives difficult have been removed in minutes, funding hasn’t been blocked and they can do parts of their job more easily…..

Martin Marshall (@MartinRCGP) Tweeted:

“2 emails from friends overnight saying the same thing, one a GP and local NHS leader and the other a clinical academic. They say they’ve achieve more progress in their work in the last 6 days than in the previous 6 months. People are making things happen and barriers are removed.”

Well isn’t now the time for B12 patients to get a piece of the action and have their huge barrier to good health removed?

We are living in unprecedented times but whilst all of us are in this mess together and whilst our backs are against the wall we need to see the great opportunity for change before us. Perhaps now there’s a real chance that we can get our B12 injections made available over the counter and bring us into line with other countries around the world so that we in the UK aren’t left behind.

Good Practice

It’s important for me to acknowledge that there are brilliant Practices in the UK that know their patients need their B12 injections and are either still administering them or are prescribing ampoules and equipment to make it possible for patients to self treat. (My Practice is one of these and I am so grateful, thank you Doctor B!) Anyone under the care of these good Practices will be eternally grateful for their understanding and care at this time. Many would give up their first born to be treated by you!

Take care and stay safe,

Tracey x
www.b12deficiency.info