Background: Vitamin B is frequently used for treating peripheral neuropathy but its efficacy is not clear.
Objectives: The objective of this review was to assess the effects of vitamin B for treating generalised peripheral neuropathy.
Search strategy: We searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Trials Register (searched August 2005), MEDLINE (January 1966 to September 2005), EMBASE (January 1980 to September 2005), Philippine databases (searched September 2005) and reference lists of articles. We also contacted manufacturers and researchers in the field.
Selection criteria: Randomised and quasi-randomised trials where vitamin B was compared with placebo or another treatment in generalised peripheral neuropathy.
Data collection and analysis: Two authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We contacted study authors for additional information.
Main results: Thirteen studies involving 741 participants with alcoholic or diabetic neuropathy were included. In the comparison of vitamin B with placebo, two small trials showed no significant short-term benefit in pain intensity while one of the trials showed a small significant benefit in vibration detection from oral benfotiamine, a derivative of thiamine. In the larger of two trials comparing different doses of vitamin B complex, there was some evidence that higher doses resulted in a significant short-term reduction in pain and improvement in paraesthesiae, in a composite outcome combining pain, temperature and vibration, and in a composite outcome combining pain, numbness and paraesthesiae. There was some evidence that vitamin B is less efficacious than alpha-lipoic acid, cilostazol or cytidine triphosphate in the short-term improvement of clinical and nerve conduction study outcomes but the trials were small. There were few minor adverse effects reported.
Authors' conclusions: There are only limited data in randomised trials testing the efficacy of vitamin B for treating peripheral neuropathy and the evidence is insufficient to determine whether vitamin B is beneficial or harmful. One small trial in alcoholic peripheral neuropathy reported slightly greater improvement in vibration perception threshold with oral benfotiamine for eight weeks than placebo. In another small study, a higher dose of oral vitamin B complex for four weeks was more efficacious than a lower dose in reducing symptoms and signs. Vitamin B administered by various routes for two to eight weeks was less efficacious than alpha-lipoic acid, cilostazol or cytidine triphosphate in short-term improvement of clinical and nerve conduction study outcomes. Vitamin B is generally well-tolerated.