Background: Vitamin B(12) deficiency is common, increasing with age. Most people are treated in primary care with intramuscular vitamin B(12). Several studies have reported equal efficacy of oral administration of vitamin B(12).
Objectives: We set out to identify randomized controlled trial (RCT) evidence for the effectiveness of oral versus intramuscular vitamin B(12) to treat vitamin B(12) deficiency.
Methods: We conducted a systematic review searching databases for relevant RCTs. Outcomes included levels of serum vitamin B(12), total serum homocysteine and methylmalonic acid, haemoglobin and signs and symptoms of vitamin B(12) deficiency.
Results: Two RCTs comparing oral with intramuscular administration of vitamin B(12) met our inclusion criteria. The trials recruited a total of 108 participants and followed up 93 of these from 90 days to 4 months. In one of the studies, mean serum vitamin B(12) levels were significantly higher in the oral (643 +/- 328 pg/ml; n = 18) compared with the intramuscular group (306 +/- 118 pg/ml; n = 15) at 2 months (P < 0.001) and 4 months (1005 +/- 595 versus 325 +/- 165 pg/ml; P < 0.0005) and both groups had neurological responses. In the other study, serum vitamin B(12) levels increased significantly in those receiving oral vitamin B(12) and intramuscular vitamin B(12) (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: The evidence derived from these limited studies suggests that 2000 microg doses of oral vitamin B(12) daily and 1000 microg doses initially daily and thereafter weekly and then monthly may be as effective as intramuscular administration in obtaining short-term haematological and neurological responses in vitamin B(12)-deficient patients.