Long term users of injectable B12 have experienced dramatic price increases. At times B12 has been hard to find due to shortages. People with conditions requiring B12 injections including pernicious anemia, gastric bypass, crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and many others have been dealing ever increasing prices because insurance companies are limiting coverage.
Why are injection B12 prices increasing in the US? Two theories have been suggested for the sky rocketing prices – increased popularity and restrictive federal regulation.
Popularity of Vitamin B12 Injections
In recent years IV vitamins have received a lot of attention. Vitamin B12 injections are available everywhere from naturopaths to day spas. Clinics specializing in IV drip therapy have opened in many cities. Canadian national broadcaster CBC published a story on the growing popularity of IV vitamin treatments and injection vitamins.
IV therapy — delivering vitamins, minerals, amino acids and saline intravenously — is often sold as a way to boost energy and revitalize its recipients. Celebrities from Rihanna and Miley Cyrus to Dr. Oz have touted its benefits.
Now use of the therapy is accelerating, experts say, thanks in large part to those celebrity endorsements — and despite a lack of scientific evidence demonstrating its effectiveness.
Tara Campbell is a naturopath in Toronto. She advises her clients IV therapy doesn’t replace food and oral hydration, but adds “the IV just takes you that extra step forward.” She estimates the therapy makes up 95 per cent of her business.
IV vitamin therapy: celebrities love it but ‘no evidence’ it works
With all the added exposure of vitamin B12 in the media it should be no surprise that prices are inching upward. What is surprising is that vitamin manufacturers haven’t increased production to meet demand.
B12 Production Restrictions and Price Gouging
Shortages and price increases cannot be attributed to the new found popularity alone. In Canada, where the story quoted above originated, injectable vitamin B12 is commonly available and prices are largely unchanged. Ads for vitamin injections are as common as in the US, as is media exposure. This suggests Canadians have the same appetite for the treatments, but without the increased prices.
The Alliance for Natural Health USA believes the steep price increases are the result of new FDA restrictions placed on compounding pharmacies. ANH-USA goes as far as to call this a war on natural medicine. The Drug Quality and Security Act passed in 2013, ANH-USA suggests, tightened control on compounding pharmacies giving “drug companies a green light to start price gouging on their manufactured B12 (cyanocobalamin)”.
This treatment was, for many years, very affordable. As Dr. Jonathan Collin points out in the April edition of the Townsend Letter, the price of a 30cc vial of injectable B12 was around $30 in the mid-2000s—or about $1 per shot. Now, that same 30cc vial could cost as much $200—almost a 700% increase in a decade.
What explains this astounding increase? In short, it is a direct result of the FDA’s war on natural medicine.
B Vits: Deep-Sixing Them the Easy Way, ANH-USA
A Perfect Storm of B12 Price Increases
Either the rising popularity or new restrictions in production could have affected the current prices. Together, however, their affects are multiplied. The new users of injectable B12 don’t know what B12 used to cost and don’t hesitate to pay the new high prices. Pharmacies and services providing B12 shots have limited supply and see the prices increasing so follow the crowd.
What you can do…
Fighting the rising tide of popularity is probably impossible, but hopefully will lesson with time and education about the uses of B12.
In the US the Alliance for Natural Health is trying to address the issue of restrictions on compounding pharmacies with a letter writing campaign. This online tool will send a letter to ask your representative to support FY 2017 appropriations language that would withhold funding from the FDA until the agency states how it will allow “office use” of compounded medicines.