Oral iron is the cornerstone of therapy for IDA, and an effective first line strategy for most patients provided the dose and duration are adequate.
Adequate doses of oral iron (100 to 200 mg of elemental iron per day in adults) can raise the haemoglobin level by around 20 g/L in a few weeks. This is equivalent to 2 units of red cells.
Iron therapy should be continued for 3 months after normalisation of haemoglobin to adequately replenish iron stores.
There are more than 100 iron containing preparations available over the counter in Australia but few contain a therapeutic dose for the treatment IDA.
Multivitamin-mineral supplements should be avoided because the elemental iron content is low (frequently 5 mg or less) and they may contain other ingredients that limit absorption.
To avoid confusion, write the name of the preparation down for the patient to take to the pharmacy.
A list of currently available oral preparations for the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia in Australia, with dosing and considerations, can be found on the National Blood Authority website here.
- National Blood Authority. Iron product choice and dose calcualtion guide for adults. Canberra, 2015.