Martyn Hooper MBE – Chair of the PAS

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Shortage of B12 Injections

by | Jan 18, 2014 | 13 comments

There have been numerous reports of UK members taking their prescription for their B12 injections to pharmacies only to be told that the Generic B12 is no longer being manufactured and that there is a waiting list for the branded B12.  Yesterday I contacted one manufacturer of the Generic B12 and was told that production is still on-going but they are only contracted to supply hospitals in the UK and not pharmacies.  So there is plenty of generic B12 being made but it doesn’t seem to be working its way into pharmacies.  I also contacted Boots the Chemists who told me that they had plenty of stocks of the branded B12 and if anyone was told that their injections were unavailable they would have to wait a maximum of three, maybe even four days, before the injections were back in stock.   I  also spoke to my local Sainsbury’s pharmacy who told me the same thing.  I then contacted Alliance Healthcare, which is the biggest pharmaceutical wholesaler in the UK told me that the generic B12 was not available (though they don’t know why) but that they had ample stocks of the branded products.  Again, they assured me that if there is any local shortage then it would be rectified within a few days.

I then contacted the Department of Health at Skipton House in London and after explaining the problem was put through to the Distribution Team who are “very concerned” about any local shortage and yesterday (Friday) they had contacted all licensed manufacturers of B12 and asked for a written explanation of why there seems to be local shortages.  At five minutes to five yesterday a member of the Department of Health’s Distribution team telephoned me and told me that they hope to have a full explanation for any local shortages from the manufacturers on Monday.  I will keep you informed.

It seems to be a case that there is a distribution issue involving the injections rather than a shortage of the injections.

If anyone is not able to obtain their injection and develops any neurological symptoms (numbness, pins and needles etc.) you are advised to make an emergency appointment with your doctor to discuss this and mention the NEQAS bulletin which can be downloaded from the society’s website.

I will keep you posted on the Department of Health’s report on Monday/Tuesday.

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  1. RCox

    I currently have B12 injections every 3 months and was due for my next one this coming Friday, but have just received a phonecall from my doctors surgery saying there is a national shortage of b12 injections and could I reschedule my appointment for at least 3 weeks from now, which is very worrying as my energy levels are extremely low currently and to wait another month to receive my b12 injection seems ridiculous, has there been any further news on these current shortages.

    Many thanx

    • Martyn

      I called the Department of Health yesterday and they told me they would be sending me a statement either later yesterday or today. I will post the statement when I receive it.

      • Martyn

        I am still waiting for the statement and will chase this up today.

  2. Martyn

    I received this email from the Department of Health a few minutes ago:

    Dear Martyn,
    Thank you for your call; my apologies for the delay in sending you this message – As I explained, we are investigating the situation regarding supply of hydroxocobalamin injection and will get back to you with further information as soon as possible.
    In the interim, please find below a summary of the supply situation as we understand it.
    Supplies of generic hydroxocobalamin injection are currently limited as a result of manufacturing difficulties. We are working with the supplier of this product, Auden McKenzie, to help ensure that normal supplies resume as soon as possible.
    We have spoken to the suppliers of the two alternative branded versions of hydroxocobalamin and both have explained that they have stock available and that pharmacist should be able to obtain a supply from their wholesaler. I’ve copied the names of these two medicines along with the company that supplies them in the UK, below.
    Neo-cytamen injection – Focus Pharmaceuticals
    Cobalin H injection – Amdipharm Mercury Company

    I hope that this information is useful – We will keep you up to date with developments.

    Joseph Smith
    Senior Pharmacy Technician
    Department of Health, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London, SE1 6LH

  3. Tanya

    I have weekley injections , i was told today by a nurse not a GP that there is shortages of B12. Thankyou i have made a copy of your DofH and will deliver it to my GP.

  4. Louise pomeroy

    I have b12 injections every month unfortunately I missed my january one so now they tell me it might be until may before I get one because of this shortage I live in Canada and I don’t know whats going to happen if I go this long without by body can’t absorb the pill form was on it before and it didn’t work please help me find some answars!

  5. Pat Kornic

    Hi Louise, Injectable cyanocobalamin is supposed to be available in Canada after April 15th. There is a possibility that it could be as early as the end of March because Sandoz Pharmaceuticals have resumed production of cyanocobalamin and they have given me a date as the last week of March as a release date for the 10 ml vial of cyanocobalamin. However, I have found Sandoz to be unreliable many times when giving an anticipated date of delivery for cyanocobalamin. The April 15th date was given to me by Cytex Pharmaceuticals, the other supplier of cyanocobalamin in Canada. In the meantime, if you wish you can order a 10ml vial of cyanocobalamin from an online site in the United States. Cory Day, one of the moderators have ordered from them and found them to be reliable. They will ship to Canada. This is the link:
    From United Kingdom National Quality Assessment Scheme for Haematinic Assays

    False normal B12 results and the risk of neurological damage.
    B12 assays may be vulnerable to interference resulting in normal values despite severe cobalamin deficiency. Where there is discordance between the clinical features of neuropathy – parasthesiae, loss of joint position sense, or megaloblastic anaemia and a “normal” B12 result, clinicians are advised to request storage of serum for further testing and are advised to treat the patient with B12 replacement therapy. Further testing may include repeat testing by an alternative B12 assay, holotranscobalamin assay, serum methylmalonicacid and measurement of intrinsic factor antibody. Treatment with B12 should not be delayed to avoid progression of neurological damage. References Carmel R, Argawal YP. 2012 NEJM 367:4 385-386 Hamilton MS, Blackmore S, Lee A. BMJ 2006:333 654-655 BJHaem. 2010 149 supp 1 abstract 54 Devalia V. BMJ 2006:333 385-386 For further information regarding methods affected see downloadable publications – Holotranscobalamin assay 2010 – go to members area- participant information – publications.


  6. Pat Kornic

    Louise, please ignore the paragraph about the false normal b12 results. I had been replying to a member in the my story section and directed her to the article about False normal B12 results. The link to online site for cyanocobalamin is accurate.

  7. Lisa

    Im in the usa and the shortage is here as well. My doctor doesnt even know when they are getting b12 injections. Im falling alart and have no clue what to do at this point. I am minths past due the injection. I am shocked noone seems to even care.

    • Martyn

      Hi Lisa, I have written to three people asking who I can contact regarding this but nobody seems to know who is the best person to be made aware of this. If you can identify the who heads up your Institute of Health and let me have his or her details I will write to him or her.

  8. Patti

    Lisa, Im also in the US. I haven’t had an injection since January. I had a regular doctor apt today and asked about the B12. She stated they aren’t making it anymore because there’s no profit in it. Why doesn’t anyone seem to care? If the shortage was Insulin, they’d have answers.

    I found several medical supply companies that have Cobalamin in stock. So where are THEY getting it? And why aren’t our doctors? There are rumors that it is being stockpiled and they are going to raise the price. Meanwhile, we suffer.

    Martyn, I have contacted a local news agency to see if they will investigate what is going on. Im keeping my fingers crossed

  9. Allison

    I called my Dr’s today to make an appointment for my injection in 2 weeks (I get one every 2 months). I was told there was a problem and to call back as there was a national supply issue currently. I told them I currently have stock in the Dr’s as they store mine for me (starting to think I should probably collect these and keep at home) so she said just as well as it was unlikely I would have been able to get any in time for my appointment. Didn’t want to scaremonger but wondered if it was just me?


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