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)

“YOU are JUST A WOMAN!”

 

What, no loading dose?
I have been helping someone in the county of Lincolnshire to access treatment and I can say with all honesty that it is THE most difficult and frustrating case I have ever taken on.

I have been told on two separate occasions that GP’s in this area don’t give loading doses as there is “no benefit to patients“. Once by a Practice Manager and once by a female District Nurse. Both are seemingly embarrassed about having told me this apparently ‘privelidged information’ about a certain (and hopefully small) group of GP’s.

The Practice Manager now denies saying it and the District Nurse’s superiors also deny it happens and yet the patient still remains ‘unloaded’.

Persistence…
I continue to dig around to get to the truth about this bizarre situation, so if you live in Lincolnshire and have not received your loading dose either, please consider getting in touch and giving me the name of your Practice and GP so that together we can make a change. (This goes for anywhere else in the UK too).

I have reminded the Practice of NICE Guidance. This states that a loading dose of 6 injections should be given and that this every other day frequency should be continued for those with neurological symptoms. This regime exists so that the patient has the best chance of recovery.

My help, or interference as this Practice sees it, is unwelcome and has fallen on deaf ears. Imagine a drawbridge being pulled up and port cullis being heavily dropped. This is arrogance, ignorance and stubbornness at an unprecedented level.

The Clinical Lead at the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), who is also a GP has said “the Practice were likely right in regards to their cautious approach” – Shocking! This wet comment smacks of a doctor not wanting to go against a peer rather than making sure (as they should do) that the patient’s needs are at the heart of the matter.

I won’t give up on this patient or on the wider situation, but my persistence causes some health professionals I’m dealing with to become angry …….

Belittling behaviour…
When I explained about the pointlessness of just one B12 injection for someone so severely affected the disgruntled District Nurse I mention above, loudly told me, “YOU ARE JUST A WOMAN!”  (I know, a shocking lack of sisterhood!)

So I agreed with her. Obviously it was meant as an insult, but agreeing with someone when they’re insulting you has a miraculous effect. It completely takes the wind out of the sails.

Essentially her statement was correct, I am just a woman;

Just a woman who cares 

Just a woman who wants to make change

But what the nurses statement was really saying was;

“you are ONLY a woman, you are not a nurse like me or a doctor, how can you know all these things and I don’t? How dare you make me feel inadequate?”

I understand her frustration. I understand her annoyance at not knowing about B12 deficiency, I’d be annoyed too…..she was however shouting at the wrong person, perhaps she should have been asking others around her why she hadn’t been taught more about this vitamin than how to give B12 injections.

It’s a fact that most people with B12 deficiency know more about their condition, how it affects them and how it should be treated than their doctor or nurse does. Wouldn’t it be lovely if this truth could be embraced and the patient’s knowledge tapped without the healthcare professional feeling inferior?

The reason that my site and others like it exist is because the teaching of B12 deficiency for those who need it is far too sparse and this needs to change.

Best wishes Tracey

www.b12deficiency.info

If you are a health professional and you and your colleagues want to learn more about B12 deficiency please click here.

If you are experiencing problems with accessing treatment;

For testimonials please click here.

Please note that the NICE link is unavailable outside of the UK.

 

Wherever we are in the world, we are all in the same boat…

There are many problems associated with diagnosis and treatment of B12 deficiency and many of them boil down to a lack of education of health professionals. They have all been done a disservice.

This is a worldwide problem.

Serum B12 blood results
I help people to access the treatment they need and always urge people to get a copy of their current and historical results. In some cases they have been found to be below range, but the result has been ignored whilst the patient has continued to deteriorate. Remember you are legally entitled to your results.

Our GP’s may be unaware of the limitations of the serum B12 blood test, that it can miss seriously deficient patients and that this can lead to a within range result being batch filed and labelled as ‘normal’.

Lack of education of this common condition means that our GP’s don’t necessarily understand that they cannot wholly rely on the blood results. The clinical picture is of utmost importance and if the patient is symptomatic it’s vital they access correct treatment for B12 deficiency.

It is important to note that the Active B12 test (holoTC/ Holotranscobalamin) is not gold standard either, remember that the clinical picture is key.

Treatment with tablets
Too many GP’s in the UK (and in other countries) try and treat B12 deficiency with B12 tablets and if the patient includes animal products in their diet, like the one the result belongs to below, then their deficiency is not caused by dietary lack and injections are essential. If you cannot absorb B12 from food then a tablet taking the same route won’t work either.

NICE Guidance states:

  • 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.

The above result at 144 ng/L is below range and is definitely showing B12 deficiency, the patient has many neurological symptoms and as I have said, includes animal products in their diet. Unfortunately this GP (and others in the Practice) believes that 50mcg cyanocobalamin tablets are the best way to treat this patient.

In reviewing these results, the GP added their own note stating:

“B12 low, script for cyanocobalamin and repeat 2 months”.

The second sentence originates from the lab and states:

“Note low B12, deficiency possible, treat if clinically appropriate otherwise repeat after 2 to 4 months and review.”

The issue with the lab note is the term: ‘deficiency possible’ –  surely this should read ‘definite B12 deficiency’?

All labs are different, all assay kits are different and all reference ranges are different. This lab below has a low reference of 150ng/L and in my area it is 220 ng/L, in East Lancashire it’s 110 ng/L. There is no across the board standard which help either the doctor or the patient.

The patient that these results belong to continued to feel unwell, had absolutely no abatement in symptoms but due to the supplementation of the 50mcg tablets there was a small raise in the serum B12 level to 161ng/nl. This confirmed to the GP that the patient could absorb B12 and they were instructed to continue with the tablets. In fact, the patient was told that they could ‘definitely absorb B12’.

CRIKEY

This would not have happened had the GP been properly educated about B12 deficiency.

Waste of time, money and NHS resources
This patient went back to see the GP repeatedly due to feeling no improvement and each time their B12 serum level was tested. Each time they were told that they should continue with the tablets for another 2 months. How frustrating is it to even read this, never mind live this?

My recent involvement in this case provided the information the GP needed to treat the patient as per NICE Guidance and how cyanocobalamin should only be used for patients with B12 deficiency of dietary origin.
However, I was told that the Practice were following another protocol and that they felt the patient hadn’t taken the tablets religiously and this was the reason for no improvement.

WOW

After nearly a year of zero improvement in symptoms I think most of us would be hard pushed to take a tablet which was proving to be a pointless treatment.

A tricky but simple case
Thankfully common sense has now prevailed and the Practice has decided to give the patient the correct treatment of B12 injections. It took many phone calls and emails for this to be actioned. The people I asked to speak to were often ‘in a meeting’ but I don’t give up.

It should not be that any patient is left for 11 months without correct treatment for this common and easy to treat deficiency.

This practice were very annoyed that I was advocating for the patient, they said that there was no need for “3rd party involvement” however in this case and in fact all that I get involved in, there absolutely was a need.

Until education on B12 deficiency is the norm, it will continue to be that outside agencies are needed to help health professionals of all disciplines to understand the seriousness of this condition and what correct treatment should be.

We are all the same
Many of us know how difficult it can be to challenge a doctor, especially those that have their heels so firmly dug into the ground.

Fortunately I learnt long ago that it can be unsafe not to challenge doctors, that they are no different to the rest of us, that they are not infallible, and they can correct their mistakes if they choose to – if the infrastructure allows them to.

I am thankful to all those health professionals who appreciate being furnished with the correct information about B12 deficiency and who regularly use my site.

Best wishes

Tracey
www.b12deficiency.info

You can read testimonials here.

Pernicious anaemia (PA) or B12 deficiency – which is worse?

Patients with a diagnosis of PA (pernicious anaemia) do not experience a more excruciating pain or a different kind of damage than someone who has a diagnosis of B12 deficiency due to another cause.

Both B12 deficiency and PA cause damage to the protective fatty coating (myelin) of the nerves. PA patients are often thought to have a ‘worse’ form of the condition but this is not true.

Diagnosis and treatment of B12 deficiency often proves to be a very difficult challenge for the patient but in some areas a diagnosis of PA (a positive IFAB test) can represent a ‘golden ticket’ to treatment, leaving others with identical symptoms, but no confirmed diagnosis of PA, without any treatment at all. It is important to note that “A negative Intrinsic Factor antibody result does not exclude the diagnosis of PA as only 60% of patients with PA will have this antibody”.

PA and B12 deficiency (unless it is caused purely by dietary lack) are caused due to an inability to absorb B12 from food and therefore B12 injections are required to bypass the stomach.

There would be uproar if our doctors only used plaster casts for a broken arms if the cause were a skiing accident whilst treating everyone else with a broken arm with a sticking plaster.  This scenario is what’s happening far too regularly with B12 deficiency and the situation is down to lack of education and correct, clear information about this condition.

This condition can have a devastating effect whatever the cause. If you choose a diet which avoids animal products then you should supplement with B12 in order to access this vital nutrient. Of course vegetarians and vegans might also be at risk due to a co existing cause so it is advisable to familiarise yourself with these in case they too apply to you.

You’ll see there are so many more causes to consider as well as PA;

  • Decreased stomach acid
  • Atrophic gastritis
  • Autoimmune pernicious anaemia
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Gastrectomy, partial or complete
  • Gastric bypass surgery (weight loss)
  • Intestinal resection
  • Partial or complete ileectomy
  • Gastrointestinal neoplasms
  • Malnutrition
  • Eating disorders  – anorexia – bulimia
  • Inadequate diet
  • Vegetarianism / veganism
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Alcoholism
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Coeliac disease (gluten enteropathy)
  • Dipphyllobothrium infection
  • blind loop syndrome
  • diverticulosis
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • small bowel overgrowth
  • tropical sprue
  • gastric irradiation
  • ileal irradiation (bladder,cervix, uterus,prostate)
  • Inborn errors of B12 metabolism
  • Transcobalamin II deficiency
  • Pancreatic exocrine insufficiency & Chronic pancreatitis
  • Imerslund Gräesbeck syndrome
  • Zollinger – Ellison Syndrome
  • Bacterial overgrowth (small bowel)
  • Fish tapeworm
  • Advanced liver disease

Drug induced causes – Please note; this list is not exhaustive

  • Antacids
  • Colchicine (treatment of gout)
  • H2 Blockers (Zantac, Tagamet, Pepcid)
  • Metformin – Diabetes drug (Glucophage)
  • PPI’s – Proton pump inhibitors (Omeprazole, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix)
  • Nitrous oxide anaesthesia
  • Nitrous oxide recreational abuse (Laughing gas / Whippets / Hippy crack)
  • Mycifradin sulphate (Neomycin) antibiotic
  • Para aminosalicylates  antibiotic
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin) – anti-epileptic
  • Potassium chloride (K-Dur)
  • Cholestyramine (Questran)
  • Chemotherapy and radiation treatment

Increased demands

  • Chronic Hemoltic anaemia
  • Hyperthroidism
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Myelopproliferative disorders
  • Neoplasms
  • Pregnancy

Some patients may never find out the cause of their condition, this does not mean that they should be denied B12 injections which are, safe, inexpensive and the most efficient treatment for their deficiency.

Our doctors may only have learnt about pernicious anaemia and not the wider picture of B12 deficiency during their training. My own GP said his tuition on the subject lasted around half an hour. This partial information can lead to our GPs thinking that B12 deficient patients without a confirmed diagnosis of PA do not require treatment by injection. Some mistakenly believe that a patient can use oral 50mcg cyanocobalamin tablets to correct their deficiency despite an inability to absorb B12 from food. Obviously this ignorance can lead to serious consequences.

Please see below;

.

Even when the patient receiving the letter above reported that they do eat meat fish eggs and dairy they were still incorrectly told that they didn’t require further B12 injections.

Everybody with B12 deficiency is affected differently and has a different degree  of damage and severity of symptoms, and so an individual requirement and frequency of treatment. Often the missing link in treatment is proper communication with the patient. Listening to how their condition affects them rather than restricting treatment according to the ink on paper detailing blood results would have a profoundly positive effect.

Imagine how the advice celebrity GP, Dr Hilary gives, makes this patient feel?
He states that; if her blood levels are ok she ‘doesn’t need injections now’ but that her “long standing forgetfulness may not be reversible”. Oh dear.

Our GP’s training is incomplete, they have not been given all the information required to treat patients with B12 deficiency correctly. Consequently both them and us are being done a disservice.

Their education needs to include the simple fact that if a patient is B12 deficient and their diet includes animal products, then they will need injections for the best chance for nerves to heal – whatever the cause. (Surely it goes without saying that if someone choosing a vegan diet is seriously ill due to lack of B12 they they should not be denied the right to injections in order to facilitate a swift recovery).

I know that many reading this will state that very high dose sublingual tablets are as good as injections, but the fact is they don’t suit everyone, they are not available to everyone and your doctor may be unaware of their existence.

There is much written about 1000mcg oral cyanocobalamin being a good substitute for injections – that a patient will absorb 1% by passive diffusion. (Too low to chance?) However these journals focus on serum levels and not how the patient is feeling. Why limit the chance of recovery in this way when the injections work perfectly?

It would be helpful if patients were treated as individuals, as per their symptoms, rather than the idea that one cause of this condition is worse than another.

If you are a healthcare professional reading this, please see the homepage of the website for more information about the issues that face patients.

Best wishes

Tracey
 www.b12deficiency.info

Ref; Published: 15 March 2018 Authors:Wang H, Li L, Qin L, Song Y, Vidal-Alaball J, Liu T http://www.cochrane.org/CD004655/ENDOC_oral-vitamin-b12-compared-intramuscular-vitamin-b12-vitamin-b12-deficiency

P.s. Thank you to all who have signed and shared the OTC petition – we are at nearly 60,000 signatures! You are making a difference and I continue to work toward this goal.

Have you seen our B12 for Life pin?

 

A serum B12 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.

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