Vitamin B12 deficiency remains undetected and untreated far too often particularly among elderly citizens

Biohit Oyj press release July 28, 2016 at 10:00 am local time (EEST)

Recently, a lively discussion has been ongoing in daily newspapers, weekly magazines and Finnish Medical Journal (SLL) as well on vitamin B12. In this discussion, perhaps the most surprising has been the proposal to make a treatment attempt (intramuscular B12-vitamin, at 1-2 week interval, three times) instead of a detailed diagnostic work-up (1). 

We feel that the modern medical treatment should always be based on correct diagnosis. Without diagnosis, the see-and-treat attempt is rarely acceptable. This demand is accentuated in cases of vitamin B12 deficiency, an early diagnosis of which is essential to prevent particularly its serious neurological sequels (2). Except for a reliable diagnosis (including the assessment of causal factors), an essential element in this context is an early recognition of the subjects at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. This, if anything, is the primary prevention at its best, which on all occasions is more cost-efficient as early detection (secondary prevention), not to mention the cost of treating manifest diseases.  

Unfortunately, this point-of-view has been totally neglected in the ongoing discussion, and we feel it important to remind that vitamin B12 deficiency with all its potential complications is, indeed, an entity that could be totally preventable as far as the risk groups are recognized by early screening (2, 3). The single most important cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is atrophic gastritis (AG), caused by Helicobacter pylori  (HP) infection or autoimmune mechanism, both of which remain undetected by the currently used standard diagnostic tests for HP. The GastroPanel® blood test developed by Biohit Oyj accurately detects HP-infection and all its risks, including gastric cancer and vitamin B12 deficiency (ref. Additional information). This has been confirmed also by an authoritative panel of international experts (4).

Chief Medical Director, Prof. Kari Syrjänen, Biohit Oyj: ‘GastroPanel®-innovation is based on long-term follow-up studies of gastritis patients conducted in Finland and Estonia (5), as well as on the pioneering observations on HP as the causative factor of gastritis and peptic ulcer disease, recognized by the 2005 Nobel prize in Medicine (6). In addition to the Biohit-driven research and development work, the GastroPanel® innovation was made possible by the immune analyzers of the micro-titer plates, all based on the invention of the vertical measurement principle (7,8). In a recently concluded study on elderly people in Finland and Estonia, 92% of all vitamin B12 deficiency cases in Estonia had remained undetected, as compared to 23.5% in Finland; even the latter is unacceptably high. Given the currently restricted health care budgets and considering the patient safety issues, it is warranted to complement the active vitamin B12 measurement (included in Biohit test repertoire) with the cost-effective and highly informative GastroPanel® test also in screening of asymptomatic subjects every time when there is a slightest suspicion that the subject belongs to a risk group of vitamin B12 deficiency.’

CEO Semi Korpela, Biohit Oyj: ‘The diagnosis and comprehensive, cost-effective and safely prevention of vitamin B12 deficiency, has been suggested to be complemented with GastroPanel® innovation already in 2000 (9), being a unique test for both HP infection and AG, with all their clinical sequels. As an end result of decades of research, several inventions and major community-responsible economical investments, GastroPanel® innovation was designed. It is reasonable to hope that this development is expanded to other fields and eventually produces additional innovations to help saving the ever increasing national health care costs, thus contributing to improvement of the Finnish national economy (10).’


1. Soppi E. Hoitokokeilu osoittaa  B12-vitamiinin puutteen. Suomen Lääkärilehti 2016;71:1436.

2. Syrjänen K.  B12-vitamiinin puute. Edelleen alidiagnosoitu monioireisen vanhuksen vaivojen aiheuttaja. Hoivapalvelut 2014;(2):32-4.

3. Sipponen P, Laxen F, Huotari K, Härkönen M. Prevalence of low vitamin B12 and high homocysteine in serum of elderly male population: Association with atrophic gastritis and helicobacter pylori infection. Scand J Gastroenterol 2003;38:1209-16.

4. Agréus L, Kuipers EJ, Kupcinskas L, Malfertheiner P, Di Mario F, Leja M, Mahachai V, Yaron N, van Oijen M, Perez Perez G, Rugge M, Ronkainen J, Salaspuro M, Sipponen P, Sugano K, Sung J. Rationale in diagnosis and screening of atrophic gastritis with stomach-specific plasma biomarkers. Scand J Gastroenterol  2012;47:136-47.

5.  Sipponen P, Maaroos HI. Chronic gastritis, Scand J Gastroenterol. 2015 Jun 3; 50(6): 657–667.

6. Marshall BJ, Warren JR. Unidentified curved bacilli in the stomach of patients with gastritis and peptic ulceration. Lancet. 1984; 323:1311–15.

7. Suovaniemi O. Automated Instrumentation for Clinical and Research Laboratories. Innovations and development of vertical light beam photometers and electronic pipettes. University of Helsinki 1994; Academic dissertation. Suovaniemi O. Aggressiivinen innovointi- ja patentointistrategia.

9. 2000, sivu 23: kuva ja teksti,



Additional information:
CEO Semi Korpela, Biohit Oyj
tel. +358 9 773 861

Biohit in brief

Biohit Oyj is a globally operating Finnish biotechnology company. Biohit mission is “Innovating for Health” – we produce innovative products and services to promote research and early diagnosis. Biohit is headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, and has subsidiaries in Italy and the UK. Biohit Series B share (BIOBV) is quoted on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki in the Small cap/Healthcare group.