Martyn Hooper MBE – Chair of the PAS

~ The Chair’s Blog ~

The Folic Acid Problem

by | Dec 20, 2018 | 1 comment

Even though Christmas is just around the corner the number of telephone calls to the society’s office hasn’t diminished. And yesterday I took a call that was quite astonishing in that it highlights the problems that newly diagnosed patients face.
It came from the mother of a university student who is currently studying for a Masters degree.
“She was diagnosed last week” she told me.
“She’s been ill for so many years, ever since she was around 15 she’s always been exhausted and irritable”.
I told her that, because of the unreliable tests used to diagnose any B12 Deficiency and whether any deficiency was due to Pernicious Anaemia that her daughter was lucky to get a firm diagnosis. I then asked if she had completed her loading doses.
“Oh no! They said that, because Christmas is upon us that she wouldn’t be able to get the nurse to give her the three injections a week for three weeks because the surgery would be closed over the Christmas period”.
Now this was shocking enough. I explained that her daughter must get the loading doses as soon as possible – even two or three injections would be enough to see her through the Christmas period. I explained that every day she was without any B12 she risked developing severe and irreversible nerve damage.
“Then I’ll make sure she gets and appointment as soon as possible”.
There! A positive outcome?
She went on.
“There’s one other thing I want to ask you”.
“Go ahead”.
“Well, she’s been prescribed 5mg of Folic Acid a day”
Can you see where this is going? We know that addressing any folate deficiency without addressing any B12 Deficiency is highly dangerous because of the folate trap (see my latest book for a full explanation – it’s too complicated to explain here).
I asked if her daughter had started taking the folic acid tablets.
“No – that’s why I called you. You see, I’ve read the leaflet that came with the tablets and it says quite clearly that you should not take the tablets if you have Pernicious Anaemia. That’s why I called you – should we take them?”
This is quite remarkable. Not only has the young lady’s doctor postponed the treatment for Pernicious Anaemia until after Christmas, but has prescribed Folic Acid without her receiving the injections of B12 which, as we know, is very dangerous.
But there’s something else quite remarkable about that call – the mother had the sense to read the advice sheet that came with the tablets. If she hadn’t then who knows what the outcome might have been.
I was unaware that the information leaflet that accompanies prescribed folic acid tablets states they should not be taken if the patient has Pernicious Anaemia but I’m going to do some digging to find out more.
Hopefully the young lady will not suffer any more than she already has done.

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1 Comment

  1. Liz

    Hi martyn
    Just read blog . Newly diagnosed PA. weirdly my doctor told me my folic acid low and to buy some over counter . Which I did there was no leaflet in them . I stopped taking them (not sure why ) but my yuk doctor must known . She also put phone down on me just as lockdown in early stages . I was slurring words and balance probs etc and was asking for early b12 jab . She said go by b12 tablets as wasn’t due it . And disconnect call .


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