Background: Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that is prevalent among type 2 diabetic patients. Some physicians prescribe vitamin B12 or vitamin B complex supplements to improve symptoms, but studies have shown that there is little to no evidence of vitamin B12 being an effective treatment for diabetic neuropathy. Thus, this study aims to investigate local physicians’ knowledge and tendency to prescribe vitamin B12 or vitamin B complex for the treatment or prevention of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Methods: It was a cross-sectional study, conducted between May and November of 2019, in several primary healthcare centers in different cities of Saudi Arabia. A total of 412 physicians with a minimum of three years of experience answered a three-part questionnaire on their demographic information, their prescribing behavior, and their knowledge of the relationship between vitamin B12 or vitamin B complex and diabetic neuropathy.
Results: The study found that only 42% of the physicians believed that vitamin B12 supplementation did not prevent diabetic neuropathy, while only 52.7% found it to be an ineffective treatment for this condition. Moreover, 58.7% stated that they had indeed prescribed vitamin B12 or multivitamins as a form of treatment or prevention of diabetic neuropathy. 47.8% of the patients requested a vitamin B12 prescription 1-6 times from their physicians, while 31.6% of them requested it ≥ 7 times, with 42.5% of physicians agreeing that their prescriptions of vitamin B12 had been a result of patient demand more than clinical justification. Likewise, 43% of respondents were aware that vitamin B12 levels should be tested annually. Furthermore, a higher proportion of consultants chose not to prescribe vitamin B12 to prevent or treat diabetic neuropathy than any other rank.
Conclusion: The findings of this study indicate a tendency of unnecessarily prescribing vitamin B12 supplementation for the prevention or treatment of diabetic neuropathy as well as a lack of knowledge on the matter among doctors in primary care hospitals in Saudi Arabia. The study has also shown that it is patients who often request this prescription, adding pressure on their physicians to comply. Future studies should investigate hospitals in a greater number of Saudi cities and include less experienced residents and medical students.