Giving You Back YOUR Life

Cost of Mis-Diagnosis

Failure to recognise B12 deficiency may be costing the country billions of pounds in lost tax, lost quality of life, and costs to the NHS. As only the costs to the NHS can be calculated with any accuracy, let's look at these.

For the purposes of the calculations we’ve used the 2007/08 census and prevalence figures, and only used the number of patients suffering from specific named conditions, i.e. 2 million, so the actual benefits may be much higher.

In simple terms, the cost of screening 2 million people from B12 deficiency would be around £6.7 million (one off cost), and assuming that 30% of these required injections and the rest oral tablets, treatment costs would be £118.3 million per year.

This would save at least £854 million per year, specifically on medication costs to the NHS (i.e. not including social services or care costs and all of the other more nebulous costs), and even then we've excluded a lot of savings which we considered "too difficult to estimate" so this is a very conservative figure. This only represents around 5% of the total NHS medicines budget, which is reassuring considering the number of patients being treated (perhaps around 15% of the "active patients").

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms are common witha number of other conditions, some of which may share these symptoms simply because they are caused by deficiency of this important vitamin. Many diseases are a description of the symptoms, not of the potential cause.

Some treatment prescribed for these mis-diagnosed conditions may at best stabilise the condition and reduce side effects. Misdiagnosis can be dangerous – during the September 2009 Swine Flu crisis, at least one person nearly died from meningitis because they were diagnosed with swine flu and treated for the wrong thing.

Most people want to get better, and where the symptoms can be relieved by Vitamin B12 replacement therapy this may even lead to the physician declaring the condition ‘resolved’ (the disease cured).

Misdiagnosis has a cost.

There’s a cost to the person suffering, their carers and friends, their employer, and society.  Depression, lack of self-worth, neuroses, days lost sick because nothing seems to work.  Pain, fatigue and inability to work.  These are very real to the sufferer, but I won’t try to quantify them because

1.  it’s very easy to come up with valuations that, whilst fully justified, start to look too big to be believable for policy-makers

2.  it’s insulting to put a low value on pain, and difficult to put a high one

Cost to NHS and social care

Let’s look at the direct and measurable NHS costs of some commonly diagnosed conditions which could be Vitamin B12 deficiency :

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Crohns and IBS
  • Dementia, Alzheimers
  • Pernicious Anaemia
  • ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia and other fatigue
  • Diabetes

Although figures are given for renal disfunction and diabetes, there are so many causes for these conditions that their figures are not included in any totals.  For the other conditions only a proportion of the figures are included

  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects around 100,000 people in UK.  MS is termed a ‘relapsing remitting’ condition (at least for the bulk of sufferers who don’t have primary progressive MS) which means that the symptoms appear (relapse) and then fade away (remission).  Currently it is considered untreatable although some disease modifying drugs are prescribed to alleviate the symptoms, therefore the costs of treatment are nearly impossible to estimate.  For example if a treatment costs £150 per month, then we still need to understand on average how many months of any given year and for how many people.  For this reason, MS costs have been excluded from the calculations.
  • Dementia/ Alzheimers’ –Dementia UK reported 574,717 people were suffering from dementia in its various forms in England, some with mild, some moderate, and some severe symptoms.  They calculate approx £1,362million (yes £1.3billion) per year NHS costs, and estimate twice this again in Social Services costs.  They also detail other social costs which have not been included. Given the association documented between Vitamin B12 deficiency and dementia, can we use 50% cost of NHS treatment as a very conservative approximation of the cost?
  • Crohns & Irritable Bowel Syndrome – one hospital estimates cost of care at £757,433 over a 6 month period at 2004 prices (for a hospital catchment population of 330,000).  Assuming this hospital is typical, this would multiply to £230million over whole of England per year.  What proportion would benefit from B12 treatment?  Crohns disease is almost certainly associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency but IBS could appear for a variety of reasons.  Estimate 50% of this total is used
  • ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia – the society “Action for ME” ( estimates cost of treatment at £787 per person per year at 2006 prices (Sheffield Hallam Univ) based on prescribed drug costs of £410 (2006 prices) and consultation/ intervention activity costs of £376 (2006 prices).  These figures are calculated from lifetime costs / 6.8 years (the average length of time people suffer).  They also estimate that there are 75,000 people diagnosed and receiving treatment, which amounts to £59million.  A study using MHRA’s GPRD database suggests 750,000 present with any fatigue symptom in any given year, although some of these will not receive diagnosis treatment directly for fatigue.  What figure do you use for the prevalence (anywhere between 75,000 and 750,000)?  What price do you put on the cost of “other fatigue” drugs especially those purchased by the sufferer?  We observed a strong result for people addressing fatigue with Vitamin B12 replacement therapy therefore have used 80% of the figure for 75,000 patients, which would represent a much smaller proportion of the total if prevalence were 750,000

Pernicious anaemia (PA) – PRIMIS+ (an analysis system based on MIQUEST data, developed by NHS Information Centre and Connecting for Health and hosted by University of Nottingham) records 190,073 people diagnosed with PA and 251,555 receiving injections of hydroxocobalamin (usually only administered with a diagnosis of PA).  The cost of administering hydroxocobalamin (a manufactured form of B12) is approx £10 per injection (representing £1.50 for the medication and a charge for nursing time) at a frequency of one per 3 months = £10,062,200.  Of course this doesn’t include any care needs such as special diets, home care support, nor any of the social costs.

  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is present in around 2.9% of the population of England (1,589,353 people in 2007/08 census), and many more have milder forms of renal disfunction which affect their lives in different ways.  Many of these patients also have co-morbidities, the most common of which is diabetes.  Of the costs estimated for treatment of CKD (£1.3billion), 93% are in secondary care – hospitals – leaving around 7% or £91million in primary care.  However it should be noted that this £19million excludes the main costs in primary care: GMS/PMS costs associated with renal failure and prevention budgets. Renal failure is associated with a number of conditions especially diabetes, therefore for the sake of maintaining defensible and conservative estimates of the cost of mis-diagnosis the costs of treating CKD in primary care are excluded from the calculations.
  • Diabetes is present in around 3.9% of the population of England (2,088,335 people 2008 figures). It cannot be cured, and the cost of treatment is estimated at £9billion (10% of NHS budget) of which £561.4million is for drugs (7% of drugs budget).  Type 1 diabetes (approx 15% of the population with diabetes) is caused by an autoimmune condition, and vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked with other autoimmune conditions although its association with diabetes has not been shown.  The sheer volume of diabetes patients means that for the sake of retaining conservative estimates of cost, we have excluded these numbers from the total.

Total cost to NHS (see above) (£million)

Proportion of total cost used for calculation

National cost figure used (see above) (£million)

Crohns and IBS  230


ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia and other fatigue 59 80% 48
Dementia, Alzheimers 1,362 + estimate for Social Services 50% 681
Pernicious Anaemia 10 100% 10
Multiple Sclerosis Not possible to calculate Costs Not included Costs Not included
Renal disfunction, Chronic Kidney Disease 91 (primary care excluding GMS & Public Health) Costs Not included Costs Not included
Diabetes 9,000 Costs Not included Costs Not included
Totals     854


£854,000,000.  £0.8billion.  This figure is a conservative estimate in a population of 54million (2007/08 census which is the date for most of the prevalence data). It’s also big in terms of numbers of people suffering:

  • 75,000 with Crohns/IBS.
  • 75,000 with ME/CFS and perhaps 10x this number with all forms of fatigue.
  • 574,000 with dementia.
  • 251,000 receiving treatment for PA (whether diagnosis recorded or not)
  • Millions with renal imbalance and diabetes. 

The numbers are huge. Lets put a round number on it, say 2million.

To contact Dr Chandy and the Support Group, please email Please note it may take 5-10 days to get a reply.

Are you B12 Deficient? Use our diagnstic calculator to find your diagnosis and how we can help you
Charity Events - View our calendar of events and see what is coming up for B12d
Success Stories - Read success stories on patients of Dr Chandy and other B12 Patients

B12d Charity Support Group Blog

  • 08

    NICE Guidelines for B12d published 6 March 2024 - Guidelines and our response

    After months (some would say years) of careful lobbying...

    Read More

  • 17

    Case studies from 2014 uploaded

    Way back before we thought of publishing a book, we cre...

    Read More

  • 04

    May 2020 Newsletter

    The newsletter is available as a PDF, with an article a...

    Read More

  • 23

    Coronavirus and meetings moved online

    Vitamin B12 is vital for the immune system.  This ...

    Read More

Donna, like so many women, wants to live a normal life. Vitamin B12 could give her that chance.
Dr Chandy was nominated for the North East Local Heroes award. The interviewer was at first surprised - people don't get awards for doing what they are paid to do - but she persisted.
New documentary out from Elissa Leonard in North America, featuring Sally Pacholok and many other internationally renowned experts.
The local MP (Grahame Morris MP for Easington - who was a BMS (BioMedical Scientist) in the labs at Sunderland Royal Infirmary) interviews people with B12 deficiency to hear their story (August 27 2010). Here Jane describes the symptoms, and how she can't wait for her next B12 injection (in fact, she knows that she needs injections every 2 weeks because she's keeping a diary of the symptoms). We're restricted how often the GP can give injections, which is why we want to raise awareness.
Janette first appeared in the BBC InsideOut documentary in October 2006. Since then the NHS has forced her doctor to withdraw B12 replacement therapy on a number of occasions, and she tells of her struggles with having B12 and then having it taken away.
She has bravely agreed to be filmed without her usual wig, but her memory is playing up because it is so long since her last injection.
Just the way it works for humans, oral B12 can make a world of a difference for your pet. My old cat Smudge chases the young cat again, climbs ladders (and climbs down herself), and is generally as fit as she was many years ago.
Julia found her eyesight going as her eyes refused to focus on the same things as each other. She's been for all sorts of tests and treatment, but now that she's on B12 replacement therapy she's starting to see an improvement.
Frankie tells of how she suffered, the tests she had to endure until doctors worked out what was wrong, and what a difference it has made.
Susan gets very tired, which isn't much fun especially as she has so much to do. Here she tells her story.
June describes her suffering when doctors didn't follow the standard protocol after any stomach or intestinal operation - to offer B12 replacement therapy