The North Wales Branch of The Royal College of Nursing leads the way!

On October the 2nd 2017 the first North Wales RCN CPD Conference, included B12 deficiency thanks to
Dr Marjorie Ghisoni.

This fantastic CPD Conference offered a range of inspiring talks for the nurses in attendance.

I was honoured to be speaking on a subject I’m so passionate about and just a stones throw from my first school.


Dr Marjorie Ghisoni, Kate Parry, Tracey Witty, Susie Griffiths.

During my presentation – ‘How often is B12 deficiency missed?‘ I used case studies and documents which detailed the many issues B12 deficient patients face, including the limitations and low reference ranges of the serum B12 test and the harmful, restricted UK treatment regime. Explaining that severe neurological and psychiatric symptoms of B12 deficiency very often precede anaemia and the misconception that only patients with a confirmed diagnosis of pernicious anaemia need B12 injections.

It was important to make the point that all cases of B12 deficiency, whatever the cause, are serious and require correct treatment. Unfortunately letters like the one above are regularly sent out to patients to stop vital treatment with a lack of knowledge of the harm they will cause to the recipient.

It was crucial to me that delegates were given tools to help identify B12 deficiency in their patients. The presentation helped to give the nurses an understanding of how to advocate for their patients who were diagnosed but under treated and for screening for those they think may be at risk of B12 deficiency.

To finish off the morning, Susie Griffiths then spoke about her personal experience of B12 deficiency and it’s effect on her family.

If you’d like more information on the education of B12 deficiency, please contact me.

Afternoon Workshop

Most of the discussion in the afternoon workshop was centred around the shock these nurses felt that this vital information was missed from their training and that of most clinicians.

What they learned meant that there was a realisation that so many of the patients they work with are at huge risk of B12 deficiency, due not only to their poor mental health, but also due to the wide use of metformin in this group of patients.

It was a surprise to many that the reference range in North wales is amongst the lowest at 150 ng/L and that ranges all over the UK differ. They left knowing that this complex condition is simple and easy to treat and could clearly see why lack of education and current practice leads to common misdiagnoses.

These nurses, who are passionate about their patients well being, will take this newly acquired information into practice and the patients under their care will directly benefit. The RCN North Wales Branch is proud to be leading the way!

A few evaluations from the day;

Must learn more about this subject. Extremely interesting, very knowledgeable speaker who is obviously passionate about raising awareness of B12 deficiency. I had a lack of knowledge before this session, it has encouraged me to research this topic.

Would be good to present to a multidisciplinary forum including GPs and junior doctors.

I found your session absolutely fascinating and I will visit the website to further my understanding. I had no idea how serious B12 deficiency was, so much of what you explained/shared resonated with me.  Thank you for sharing your experience with us all.

So informative, I will be discussing this at our team meeting including our consultants – looking forward to looking at the website.

Inspirational and thought provoking and will consider in my work.

 

Another opportunity to raise awareness

In the evening the film ‘Sally Pacholok’ was screened for the villagers of Rhosneigr, Anglesey. If you haven’t seen this film yet it offers a great opportunity to be educated. Please follow use this link to watch.

Bangor University.

The following day Dr Marjorie Ghisoni had arranged for the second and third year Mental Health Nursing Students at Bangor University to be educated about B12 deficiency.  These students will now be able to apply this knowledge to their clinical practice.

From the questions taken afterwards, it was clear just how many of their lives were already effected by ignorance of the condition and the resulting under treatment of B12 deficiency. For so many, the new information provided a huge missing part of a jigsaw. It was heartening to hear that so many planned to further study B12 deficiency in their research projects.

The emails I received within hours of the talks are testament to the fact that if you give people the right information and tools they need, they can achieve a diagnosis and correct treatment. There’s now a whole new band of people badgering their colleagues, friends and family about B12 deficiency and this really is something to celebrate!

The hits on the website and the signatures on the OTC petition show just how inspired they were to make a difference.

It was an honour to be part of helping RCN Members in North Wales Nurses and our future Mental Health Nurses to take the lead in education of B12 deficiency.

Heartfelt thanks to Dr Marjorie Ghisoni for recognising the great need for this training and for making this happen!

Perhaps you need comprehensive training on B12 Deficiency and how it affects patients, or are looking for speakers at your event? If so please get in touch via; tracey@b12deficiency.info

Best wishes

Tracey
www.B12deficiency.info

Refs;

2015 Vitamin B12 Deficiency: An Important Reversible Co-Morbidity in Neuropsychiatric Manifestations
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4341306/

2015 Vitamin B12 deficiency: an important reversible co-morbidity in neuropsychiatric manifestations.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25722508

2009. Malignant catatonia in a patient with bipolar disorder, B12 deficiency, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome: one cause or three?
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19820558/?i=1&from=b12%20AND%20catatonia

2009 Psychotic disorder and extrapyramidal symptoms associated with vitamin B12 and folate deficiency.(B12 deficiency-psychotic disorder, extrapyramidal symptoms in a 12-year-old boy)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19095695/?i=2&from=b12%20AND%20catatonia

2012. Psychotic disorder, hypertension and seizures associated with vitamin B12 deficiency: a case report.(“…..vitamin B(12) level should be checked in patients who do not have an obvious cause for psychosis, seizures or hypertension.”)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22027500/?i=2&from=B12%20psychosis%20AND%20%22blood%20was%20normal%22

2013. Association between vitamin b12 levels and melancholic depressive symptoms: a Finnish population-based study.(“The vitamin B12 level was associated with melancholic DS but not with non-melancholic DS.)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23705786

2013 Vitamin B12 deficiency presenting as an acute confusional state: a case report and review of literature. (With anaemia)(“Total resolution of the psychiatric symptoms occurred following parenteral vitamin B12 replacement therapy.”)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/24250331/?i=1&from=b12%20and%20delirium

2013 Polyglandular autoimmune syndrome disguised as mental illness.(“The diagnosis of her endocrinopathies were likely delayed for many years due to the psychiatric disorder….”)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23632176

2013 Delirium as a result of vitamin B12 deficiency in a vegetarian female patient. (“The neuropsychiatric symptoms may be concurrent or precede the other symptoms.”)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23859997

2013 Cobalamin deficiency: clinical picture and radiological findings. (“Neuropsychiatric symptoms may precede hematologic signs”)http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24248213

2013 Decreased whole-blood global DNA methylation is related to serum hormones in anorexia nervosa adolescents.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24286295

2013 Vitamin B12 supplementation in treating major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24339839

2013 Vitamin B12 deficiency presenting as an acute confusional state: a case report and review of literature.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24250331

2014 The neurology of folic acid deficiency.

(“In both deficiency states [b12/folate] there is often dissociation between the neuropsychiatric and the hematologic complications.”)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24365361

2016 Long-term Metformin Use and Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4880159/

2012 Metformin associated B12 deficiency.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22799121

2014 Vitamin B12 status in metformin treated patients: systematic review.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24959880

2016 Association between metformin and vitamin B12 deficiency in patients with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27130885

2016 Study of Vitamin B12 deficiency and peripheral neuropathy in metformin-treated early Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27730072

2017 Developing a metformin prescribing tool for use in adults with mental illness to reduce medication-related weight gain and cardiovascular risk.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28747113

Are your vital B12 injections being stopped? FREE help options here….

If your treatment is being restricted or stopped altogether, hopefully there will be some help options for you here.

The Letters….
There are letters being sent out to patients, some of whom have received B12 treatment for donkey’s years, which announce that they will no longer receive their vital injections.

The incidence of this behaviour is increasing …..


This appears to be due to a cost saving exercise and largely happens without any prior consultation with individual patients to discuss their needs. (The cost of B12 is pennies but the time for nurses to give the injection appears to be the ‘saving’ here.)

Some practices are enclosing diet sheets for patients to learn how to make sure they are eating foods containing B12. Quite bizarre when these patients wouldn’t be deficient in the first place if they could absorb B12 from food.

The same old line about ‘too much B12 being harmful’ (which is complete rubbish) is often used in these letters and if the patient is unaware of the truth about B12 they might quietly comply with the harmful removal of their vital treatment.

Some letters state that the reason B12 injections are being stopped is “many patients are being over treated with this vitamin”. If this is the case in your letter, please ask them to provide you with this evidence.

Our clinicians need reminding that Pernicious anaemia (PA) is the very tip of a huge iceberg.

Some GP’s may incorrectly believe that only patients with a definite diagnosis of PA, those with a positive intrinsic factor antibody test, require treatment for life so seem to be using this as their treatment exclusion criteria.

The trouble is that the IFA test is not entirely reliable, it has a very low sensitivity and misses many that do have PA.

Obviously this ignores all those who require life long treatment due to other causes of B12 deficiency (of which there are many), thereby potentially causing great harm to the vast majority of their B12 deficient patients.

Cost saving?

These letters appear to be indiscriminate cost saving initiatives and are being sent out as individual practice directives and not that of the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group).

You may know that each GP Practice is governed by a CCG and each CCG has a Medicines Optimisation Department – the role of this department is to “make sure that the right patients get the right choice of medicine at the right time”.

If you have received a letter stopping your vital lifelong treatment then why not find your CCG and talk to the Medicines Optimisation department about what is happening?

There are 211 CCG’s, find yours here.

You may find the  NHS Constitution of great help when discussing your lack of treatment.

This valuable document is for everyone and should be used in situations when your GP or your surgery is not making any sense regarding your treatment. I have added some parts of the text below but want to highlight the following sentence for you to bear in mind; 

“The Secretary of State for Health, all NHS bodies, private and voluntary sector providers supplying NHS services, and local authorities in the exercise of their public health functions are required by law to take account of this Constitution in their decisions and actions.” 

_______________________________________________________________________

The NHS Constitution sets out your rights as a patient, and explains the commitments the NHS has made to providing you with a high quality service. Organisations providing NHS care must take account of the NHS Constitution when treating you, so you may find it helpful to refer to it if you are thinking about making a complaint.

This Constitution establishes the principles and values of the NHS in England. It sets out rights to which patients, public and staff are entitled, and pledges which the NHS is committed to achieve, together with responsibilities, which the public, patients and staff owe to one another to ensure that the NHS operates fairly and effectively. The Secretary of State for Health, all NHS bodies, private and voluntary sector providers supplying NHS services, and local authorities in the exercise of their public health functions are required by law to take account of this Constitution in their decisions and actions. References in this document to the NHS and NHS services include local authority public health services, but references to NHS bodies do not include local authorities. Where there are differences of detail these are explained in the Handbook to the Constitution.

1. The NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion, belief, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity or marital or civil partnership status. The service is designed to improve, prevent, diagnose and treat both physical and mental health problems with equal regard. It has a duty to each and every individual that it serves and must respect their human rights.
At the same time, it has a wider social duty to promote equality through the services it provides and to pay particular attention to groups or sections of society where improvements in health and life expectancy are not keeping pace with the rest of the population.

4. The patient will be at the heart of everything the NHS does. It should support individuals to promote and manage their own health. NHS services must reflect, and should be coordinated around and tailored to, the needs and preferences of patients, their families and their carers. As part of this, the NHS will ensure that in line with the Armed Forces Covenant, those in the armed forces, reservists, their families and veterans are not disadvantaged

Improving lives. We strive to improve health and wellbeing and people’s experiences of the NHS. We cherish excellence and professionalism wherever we find it – in the everyday things that make people’s lives better as much as in clinical practice, service improvements and innovation. We recognise that all have a part to play in making ourselves, patients and our communities healthier.

Everyone counts. We maximise our resources for the benefit of the whole community, and make sure nobody is excluded, discriminated against or left behind. We accept that some people need more help, that difficult decisions have to be taken – and that when we waste resources we waste opportunities for others.

You have the right to receive care and treatment that is appropriate to you, meets your needs and reflects your preferences.

  • Quality of care and environment:
    You have the right to be treated with a professional standard of care, by appropriately qualified and experienced staff, in a properly approved or registered organisation that meets required levels of safety and quality.

_________________________________________________________________________

Patients with B12 deficiency are regularly discriminated against.

You can see that this powerful and useful document can be employed to protect both you and your treatment.

If your particular GP is unhelpful, could there be another in the practice who you could see instead?

It is important to understand that many of our clinicians receive NO TRAINING whatsoever in B12 deficiency. Some receive a little, but what they may be taught is not necessarily up to date – or their training focused solely on PA (pernicious anaemia) – and the frankly ridiculous notion that anyone without a definite diagnosis of this or the presence of anaemia does not require treatment.

It is not the fault of the trainee doctor or nurse that this vital education is missing – but countless patients have provided a valuable opportunity for CPD by providing information for those in qualified to be in charge of their care. Many times this is ignored.

When doctor’s don’t know best….

I know how difficult it is for patients to challenge their doctor regarding treatment, but if you, or someone you love is being desperately under treated for this vitamin deficiency then it is essential that you, or someone close to you, takes the bull by the horns and speaks up as firmly as possible.

I hope the NHS Constitution will help you to do this.

1. You have to ignore the idea that you are upsetting the doctor, or that you are insulting them by questioning poor decisions about your health and wellbeing.

2. You have to believe doctors are no different from you, they have just learnt different things, read different books and passed different exams and that is all.

3. You have all the expertise on you, how you feel and how your deficiency effects you. You have to not be shy about sharing this in the face of such ignorance.

Ask yourself how you would challenge a joiner who mistakenly removes joists that make your roof safe?

Or a plumber who’s poor workmanship means that carbon monoxide is leaking into your bedroom?

You have to rid yourselves of the idea that the ‘doctor knows best’ when you know that their actions are doing harm.

You are not a lesser being than your doctor. You absolutely matter.

 

If you need help with complaining for FREE you can contact your local council or local Healthwatch  team to find out about independent NHS complaints advocacy services in your area. Complaints Advocates may help you to write a letter, attend a meeting with you or explain the options available to you.

If you have already complained to the GP, the Practice Manager, the CCG, NHS England, and are still unhappy then; 

You can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) which makes final decisions on unresolved complaints about the NHS in England. It is an independent service which is FREE for everyone to use.

To take your complaint to the Ombudsman, visit the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website or call 0345 015 4033.

You can of course complain to you MP and ask for help, some will oblige, others will direct you to NICE or NHS England.

Why not print this blog post out and help your GP or advocate to understand the situation better?

The home page of the site helps to show the issues facing patients; www.b12deficiency.info

If you need personalised support, please see my Contact page.

Very best wishes

Tracey

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.

www.b12deficiency.info Twitter – @B12info Facebook

 

B12 deficiency, the fantasy & the reality

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

IMG_3100

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

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

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

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

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

Myths are learnt or picked up during their careers;

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

That the symptoms experienced are psychosomatic

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

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

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

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

This is all incorrect.

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

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

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

Specialist letter (2)

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

By working together we can make a difference.

Best wishes Tracey

www.b12deficiency.info

Facebook

Twitter – @B12info

If you need any help or information, please contact me here.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what the BNF said –

Thank you for your email to BNF Publications. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

I have chosen some parts to highlight below;

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

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

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

This report states;

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

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

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

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

Estimates for observed Prescriptions for parenteral B12

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

Reasons for Excessive prescription

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

Discussion

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting standards

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

The following standards were set;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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


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

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

https://core.ac.uk/display/3914934

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

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

Abstract

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The word rationing tells us what is really going on here

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

Money Money Money.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Setting: All 147 Leicestershire practices.

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

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

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

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

Criteria for treatment and management

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

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

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

Results

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes
Tracey