1. About hydroxocobalamin
Hydroxocobalamin is a manufactured version of the vitamin B12. It is used to treat and prevent vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia (when you have low levels of this vitamin in the body).
The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK is pernicious anaemia.
Hydroxocobalamin is only available on prescription.
It's given as an injection. This will usually be at your GP surgery but can sometimes be given to you in hospital.
2. Key facts
- Hydroxocabalamin starts to work straight away. However, it may take a few days or weeks before your symptoms start to improve and you feel better.
- At first, you may need to have the injection a few times a week to boost your levels of vitamin B12.
- Some common side effects are feeling or being sick and diarrhoea.
- It's safe to take for a long time. Some people may need to take hydroxocobalamin for the rest of their lives.
3. Who can and can't take hydroxocobalamin
Most adults and children can have hydroxocobalamin injections.
It's not suitable for everyone.
To make sure it's safe for you, tell your doctor before starting hydroxocobalamin if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to hydroxocobalamin or any other medicines in the past
- have been told you have low levels of potassium
- have an irregular or fast heartbeat
4. Having your injection
A nurse, or possibly a doctor, will usually give you your hydroxocobalamin injection. The injection is given into a muscle (known as an intramuscular injection).
You may have some pain, swelling or itching where your injection was given. However this is usually mild and will wear off quite quickly.
Will my dose go up or down?
When you first start having your treatment, you'll usually have an injection a few times a week.
Your dose may go up or down, depending on your response to the treatment and the vitamin B12 levels in your blood.
To see how well it's working, your doctor will ask you about your symptoms such as tiredness and lack of energy. They will also give you regular blood tests to monitor the vitamin B12 levels in your blood.
As your symptoms and vitamin B12 levels improve, you may be able to have the injections less often, such as every few months.
How long will I take it for?
Your doctor will decide exactly how long you will need to have hydroxocabalamin injections. It depends on how well you respond to your treatment.
What if I miss an appointment?
It's important to attend your appointments.
If you miss having your injection, the level of vitamin B12 in your body will go down further. This may make your health problems worse.
If you do have to miss an appointment, ask your doctor or nurse when you should have the next dose.
5. Side effects
Like all medicines, hydroxocobalamin can cause side effects in some people, but not everyone gets them.
Common side effects
Talk to your doctor if any of these side effects bother you or do not go away after a few days:
- pain, swelling or itchy skin where your injection was given
- feeling or being sick (nausea or vomiting)
- feeling dizzy
- hot flushes
Serious side effects
Serious side effects are very rare but tell your doctor immediately if you get any of these symptoms after having treatment:
- irregular heartbeats or heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable (palpitations)
Serious allergic reaction
In rare cases, hydroxocobalamin can cause a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
Immediate action required: Call 999 or A&E if:
- you get a skin rash that may include itchy, red, swollen, blistered or peeling skin
- you're wheezing
- you get tightness in the chest or throat
- you have trouble breathing or talking
- your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling
You could be having a serious allergic reaction and may need immediate treatment in hospital.
These are not all the side effects of hydroxocobalamin. For a full list, see the leaflet inside your medicines packet.
You can report any suspected side effect to the UK safety scheme.
6. How to cope with side effects
What to do about:
- pain, swelling or itchy skin where your injection was given - these symptoms are usually mild and should only last a few hours. You can ask a pharmacist to recommend a mild painkiller if the pain is bothering you
- feeling or being sick - stick to simple meals and avoid rich or spicy food. If you're being sick, try small, frequent sips of water to avoid dehydration
- diarrhoea - drink plenty of fluids, such as water or squash, to avoid dehydration. Signs of dehydration include peeing less than usual or having dark strong-smelling pee
- headaches - make sure you rest and drink plenty of fluids. Do not drink too much alcohol. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a painkiller. Talk to your doctor if the headaches are severe or last longer than a few days
- feeling dizzy - stop what you're doing, and sit or lie down until you feel better. Do not drive, ride a bike or use tools or machinery until you stop feeling dizzy
- hot flushes - try cutting down on coffee, tea and alcohol. It might help to keep the room cool and use a fan. You could also spray your face with cool water or sip cold or iced drinks. The flushing should go away after a few days. If it does not go away, or if it's causing you problems, contact your doctor
7. Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Hydroxocobalamin is generally safe to have in pregnancy and while you're breastfeeding.
Hydroxocobalamin does pass into your milk, but it's not harmful to your baby.
For more information about how vitamin B12 treatments can affect you and your baby during pregnancy, read this leaflet on the Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy (BUMPS) website.
Tell your pharmacist or doctor if you're trying to get pregnant, already pregnant or breastfeeding.
8. Cautions with other medicines
Hydroxocobalamin is usually safe to have with other medicines including painkillers.
Mixing hydroxocobalamin with herbal remedies and supplements
There's very little information about taking herbal remedies and supplements while taking or using hydroxocobalamin.
For safety, tell your doctor or pharmacist if you're taking any other medicines, including herbal remedies, vitamins or supplements.
9. Common questions
How does it work?
Hydroxocobalamin is a manufactured version of vitamin B12.
It works by increasing your levels of vitamin B12 so that you can make red blood cells that work properly to carry oxygen around your body.
This helps to reduce symptoms such as tiredness and lack of energy.
How long does it take to work?
Hydroxocobalamin gets to work straight away. However it may take a few days or weeks before your vitamin B12 levels and symptoms (such as extreme tiredness or lack of energy) start to improve.
How long will I take it for?
The length of treatment depends on your individual needs and how well you respond to treatment. This will usually be a few months or sometimes years.
For pernicious anamia, you will need to take hydroxocobalamin for the rest of your life.
Are the injections OK to have for a long time?
Yes, it's OK to have hydroxocobalamin injections for a long time. Some people will need to have them for the rest of their lives.
What will happen if I stop having the injections?
You'll be given an appointment for your hydroxocobalamin injection.
If you miss having your injection, the level of vitamin B12 in your body will go down even more. This may make your health problems worse.
Talk to your doctor if you want to stop having hydroxocobalamin injections or if you are bothered by side effects.
Can I drink alcohol with it?
Yes, you can drink alcohol with hydroxocobalamin. Alcohol doesnot affect how this medicine works.
However, drinking too much on a regular basis can cause folate deficiency anaemia.
Try not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. A standard glass of wine (175ml) is 2 units. A pint of lager or beer is usually 2 to 3 units of alcohol.
Is there any food or drink I need to avoid?
You can eat and drink as normal while taking hydroxocobalamin.
Will it affect my contraception?
However, oral contraceptives may reduce the blood levels of hydroxocobalamin. But it w ill not have a noticeable affect on your treatment.
If hydroxocobalamin makes you sick (vomit) or have severe diarrhoea for more than 24 hours, your contraceptive pills may not protect you from pregnancy.
Will it affect my fertility?
There's no firm evidence to suggest that taking hydroxocobalamin reduces fertility in men or women.
Can I drive or ride a bike?
Hydroxocobalamin generally does not affect your ability to drive or ride a bike.
However, it can make some people feel dizzy. If you do feel dizzy after having it, do not drive, cycle or use any machinery or tools until you feel OK again.