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.
If require personalised help please see my contact page for more information.
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