Vitamin B12 Cream: The Rigiverderm® Case Study
In 2009, the German ARD broadcaster made and released the program ‘Saying no to healing – how pharmaceutical companies block a drug’ (German: Heilung unerwünscht – wie Pharmakonzerne ein Medikament verhindern), regarding hype about vitamin B12 creams. The documentary claimed that there were huge health benefits to be achieved in the battle against eczema and psoriasis through the use of the vitamin B12 cream Rigividerm® (later renamed Mavena® B12 Salbe), and that the cream was yet being blocked by pharmaceutical companies. According to clinical studies, this vitamin B12 cream would have an equal or better effect than other products, had been scientifically tested and was a particularly healthy alternative to cortisone. The documentary gave the impression of a miracle cure, which led to a large influx of patients for both the manufacturer and drugstores across Germany.
The program caused a small scandal, as it was described by critics as false advertising; the director responsible lost his job as a consequence and the manufacturer Regeneratio Pharma had to change the name of the product from Rigividerm® to Mavena B12 Salbe®. Today, the B12 lotion is available directly from the manufacturer under the name Regeneratio B12® Salbe, whilst delivery of the Maverna product is ‘not available’ for unknown reasons. There are also numerous copycat drugs now available with the same or a very similar recipe of cyanocobalamin and avocado oil.
Since the effectiveness of vitamin B12 cream remains a topic of debate, questions still arise as to whether vitamin B12 cream really does have health benefits. This article will aim to give an overview of its effect mechanism, the scientific standpoint and the results and experiences of the effectiveness of vitamin B12 cream.
How Does Vitamin B12 Cream Work?
Vitamin B12 is a nitric oxide (NO) blocker – it neutralizes nitric oxide radicals and thus reduces so-called nitrosative stress, which is responsible for a variety of symptoms and certain skin diseases. Nitric oxide is especially suspected to be the cause of the irritations and skin changes in eczema and psoriasis.
Whilst the result of vitamin B12 as an NO-blocker in internal use is very well known, doubts remain as to how effective it can be externally.1
How Well-Documented is the Effect of Vitamin B12 Cream?
Vitamin B12 cream has been tested in clinical studies, which were carried out in part at universities and by recognized dermatologists, before being published by renowned newspapers.2,3 The studies were sufficient enough for scientific purposes, but did not fit the high requirements of studies for medicinal approval.
The studies were only carried out on small trial groups (between 13 and 49) and, with the exception of one study, were only carried out ‘blind’ – meaning that even though the participants didn’t know if they were receiving B12 cream or a placebo, the researchers did. This gave the test the characteristic of a preliminary study, but this is practical for a therapeutic lotion and other supplements on the market are often tested in the same way. A comprehensive study is also difficult to afford for small manufacturers, as the costs are so high.
The biggest criticism of the study was that it was carried out by the manufacturers themselves. Whilst a lack of independent studies is pretty commonplace in the pharmaceutical industry, it discredited the dermatologists involved, who were accused of bias and of being ‘bought’ by the manufacturer.
Despite this, all studies were in agreement about a therapeutic effectiveness which was significantly better than that of the placebo or comparable with other, presently available creams. However, the small number of patients in the studies makes it difficult to draw any definitive conclusions.
The Most Important Study on Vitamin B12 Cream
The most important and valuable study on this topic was carried out by Professor Dr. Markus Stücker at the university of Bochum. It comprised of 49 test subjects with eczema and was the only study to be completely randomized, placebo controlled and multicentric. This study was published in the scientific magazine ‘British Journal of Dermatology’.4
The patients received two creams each, to be applied to different points on the body. One was vitamin B12 cream, the other an identical cream but simply with the vitamin B12 removed. The eczema rating system, otherwise known as the atopic dermatitis score (SASSAD score) improved with the vitamin B12 cream by around 55 points, whilst the placebo cream only saw improvements of 29 points. This is a significant scientific difference and speaks volumes for the effectiveness of the cream. The study was also able to draw the conclusion that the vitamin B12 was responsible for the change, as the placebo cream was otherwise identical.
Unfortunately, the size of the study here is once again too small to document the effectiveness of vitamin B12 with statistical certainty.
Do Patients Recommend Vitamin B12 Cream?
The patients’ reaction to the B12 cream was very mixed. Whilst some users rejoiced on the relevant forums about the way that the lotion had finally relieved their discomfort, others argued that the cream showed no effect whatsoever.5 Some even reported their conditions worsening, which can presumably be attributed to a reaction to the ingredients avocado oil and citric acid.
The cream is thus surely no miracle cure, and the extent of its effectiveness cannot be said with any certainty at present. Whilst some swear by the therapeutic strength of the cream and herald it as an alternative to cortisone, others consider it a very normal cream with no particularly special effects.
Vitamin B12 Cream and its Ingredients
Most vitamin B12 creams available are based on avocado oil, which in itself has relieving qualities, though it has been known to trigger certain so-called cross-reactions: those who react to walnuts, kiwis, bananas or latex may experience redness and itching after applying the cream. At present, it is unclear how much the existence of these allergies affect the effectiveness of the cream and how responsible this is for the mixed reactions in testing.
The original recipe for 100g is as follows:
- 0.07 g Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin)
- 46 g Avocado oil
- 45.42 g Water
- 8 g Methyl glucose sesquistearate
- 0.26 g Calcium sorbate
- 0.25 g Citric acid
Vitamin B12 and its Effect on the Skin
Some researchers consider the use of vitamin B12 for skin conditions to be promising, but refer here mostly to its effectiveness when used internally.6 The effectiveness of vitamin B12 for external use requires further research. It is too difficult to assess whether vitamin B12 can help in individual cases at present – the only thing to do is to try it and see if it works for you.
1 Dr. Claudia Schöllmann, Dr. Joachim Kresken. Vitamin B12-Salbe gegen Neurodermitis und Psoriasis. DermoTopics, Ausgabe 1, 2010, ID-Institute for Dermopharmacy GmbH, Köln
2 Stücker M., Memmel U., Hoffmann M., Hartung J., Altmeyer P. Vitamin B12 Cream Containing Advocado Oil in the Therapy of Plaque Psoriasis“. in Dermatology 2001;203:141-147
3 Ronald Januchowski, D.O., „Evaluation of Topical Vitamin B12 for the Treatment of Childhood Atopic Dermatitis“, Regional Family Medicine Residency Program, Spartanburg (South Carolina, USA)
4 Stücker M et al: Topical vitamin B12 – a new therapeutic approach in atopic dermatitis-evaluation of efficacy and tolerability in a randomized placebo-controlled multicentre clinical trial. Br J Dermatol 2004; 150 977-983
6 Peter Marko, Franz Marty. Vitamin B 12 und Hautleiden. PrimaryCare 2006, 6: Nr. 19-20, Schweizerischer Ärzteverlag AG, Muttenz http://www.primary-care.ch/docs/primarycare/archiv/defr/2006/2006-23/2006-23-251.PDF