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.

A bizarre and wasteful practice – Is your doctor following this crowd?

It seems there are a group of doctors using the B12 test to in order to remove B12 injections from patients who require life long treatment.

I have blogged about this practice before but due to the extra impact it’s having I thought it time to revisit.

Some doctors (far too many) are systematically re testing serum B12 levels in those already diagnosed believing that a ‘within range’ result means the patient can function without their essential treatment.

These patients cannot absorb B12 from food, hence their original diagnoses, so how exactly are they meant to access B12 without their injections?


Test shortage
Another impact of patients being retested unnecessarily is a resulting lack of the reagent required to carry out the test. This has happened in the past few months and obviously delays diagnosis and treatment for new patients.


Wasteful and harmful
This practice is nearly always wasteful but it’s harmful to the patient too if the doctor fails to understand that testing once the patient is on treatment is useless and that the result has no relationship to the level of B12 in their cells.

What the experts say
The testing lab often add this note to the bottom of a high result; “Do not measure B12 levels in patients who are on parenteral treatment”

and to quote NICE Guidance;

  • Measuring cobalamin levels is unhelpful as levels increase with treatment regardless of how effective it is, and retesting is not usually required.
  • What monitoring is required after treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency has started?

    • Perform a full blood count and reticulocyte count: 

    • Within 7–10 days of starting treatment.

    • A rise in the haemoglobin level and an increase in the reticulocyte count to above the     normal range indicates that treatment is having a positive effect.

    • If there is no improvement, check serum folate level (if this has not been done already).

    • After 8 weeks of treatment, and also measure iron and folate levels.

    • The mean cell volume (MCV) should have normalised.

    • On completion of folic acid treatment to confirm a response.

    • Measuring cobalamin levels is unhelpful as levels increase with treatment regardless of how effective it is, and retesting is not usually required.

    • However, cobalamin can be measured 1–2 months after starting treatment if there is no response.

    • Neurological recovery may take some time — improvement begins within one week and complete resolution usually occurs between six weeks and three months.

    • Ongoing monitoring is unnecessary unless a lack of compliance with treatment is suspected, anaemia recurs, or neurological symptoms do not improve or progress.

Remember if you are neurologically affected you need to be on every other day injections for as long as it takes for those symptoms to stop improving.
Best wishes

Tracey

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