Objective: To discuss the potential of histamine H2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) to cause malabsorption of vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin).
Data sources: Pertinent literature was identified via a MEDLINE search. Journals and references cited in published articles also were used as data sources.
Study selection: Studies evaluating the effect of H2RAs on vitamin B12 absorption were reviewed.
Data synthesis: H2RAs decrease acid secretion by the gastric parietal cells. Gastric acid and pepsin produced by these cells are required for the cleavage of vitamin B12 from dietary sources. Intrinsic factor (IF), also produced by gastric parietal cells, is required for vitamin B12 absorption from the gastrointestinal tract. Although H2RAs have not conclusively been shown to decrease IF secretion, studies have demonstrated a significant reduction in food-bound vitamin B12 absorption secondary to decreased acid secretion in patients taking these drugs.
Conclusions: H2RAs have the potential to cause vitamin B12 deficiency. This may be important in patients with inadequate stores of vitamin B12 (e.g., poor diet), particularly those receiving H2RA therapy continuously for more than two years. Healthcare providers should be aware of this potential adverse effect.