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Vitamin B12 injections versus oral supplements. How much money could be saved by switching from injections to pills?

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Objective — To estimate savings, using a third-party payer perspective, if all elderly patients currently receiving vitamin B12 (cobalamin) injections were switched to high-dose oral therapy.

Design — We modeled high-dose oral B12 supplement costs to include drugs, pharmacists' fees, and one-time conversion costs consisting of two physician visits and laboratory monitoring. The number of vitamin-injection visits avoided by switching to oral therapy was predicted using a multivariate model that considered covariates for overall patient illness.

Setting — Ontario family physicians' and internists' practices.

Participants — Population-based administrative databases for Ontario were used to identify all people between 65 and 100 years who received parenteral vitamin B12 during 1995 and 1996.

Main Outcome Measures — The cost of parenteral vitamin B12 for each patient, including drugs, injections, pharmacists' fees, and injection-associated physician visits, was measured directly from the databases.

Results — The annual cost of parenteral vitamin B12 therapy averaged $145.88 per person and totaled a maximum $25 million over 5 years. Converting all patients to high-dose oral B12 and treating them for 5 years would cost $7.4 million. Depending on how many vitamin-injection visits are avoided by switching to oral therapy, between $2.9 million and $17.6 million would be saved. Switching to oral B12 administration saved costs as long as 16.3% of injection-associated visits were avoided.

Conclusion — Switching all patients from B12 injections to oral cobalamin therapy could result in substantial savings.

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Citation

van Walraven C, Austin P, Naylor CD. Can Fam Physician. 2001; 47(1):79-86.

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