I’ve received direct messages on Twitter @HypothyroidMom, on the Hypothyroid Mom Facebook fan page, and on my blog, from readers around the world suffering from symptoms of hypothyroidism while on T4-only drugs, including Levothyroxine, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Oroxine and Eltroxin. Doctors refuse to test Free T3 and thyroid antibody levels. Doctors refuse to work with patients who are currently on natural desiccated thyroid and refuse to accept them as patients unless they switch to T4-only medications. Doctors refuse to prescribe natural desiccated thyroid even though their patients are suffering debilitating even life-threatening symptoms on their current T4-only meds. While mainstream doctors are focusing solely on T4-only medications, they are missing the bigger picture in hypothyroidism treatment options and leaving their patients suffering. What in the world is going on?
Up until the 1950s hypothyroidism patients were treated with desiccated thyroid taken from pigs. Desiccated thyroid extract is prepared from pig thyroid glands. The glands are dried (desiccated), ground to powder, combined with binder chemicals and pressed into pills. Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) includes the entire dried gland and its contents, including all four forms of thyroid hormone (T4, T3, T2, T1), RNA, DNA and co-factors. The pig thyroid closely resembles the human thyroid therefore it provides the multiple components missing in hypothyroid patients.
Then in the early 1960s, pharmaceutical companies entered the picture and began to mass produce isolated T4, which is the predominant form of thyroid hormone produced by our thyroid gland. The generic name for T4 is Levothyroxine. Pharmaceutical companies patented brand names like Synthroid. These T4-only medications were said to be the new improved treatment for hypothyroidism.
Given the number of people suffering from hypothyroidism, T4-only medications presented pharmaceutical companies with an opportunity for big money. Hmmm…
Generations of doctors since the first introduction of T4-only medications, have been trained to prescribe Levothyroxine as the drug of choice for the treatment of hypothyroidism.
A list of the 25 most prescribed drugs in 2011 was released in a report by the IMS Institute of Healthcare informatics. Levothyroxine was listed the SECOND MOST-PRESCRIBED DRUG in the U.S., with 104.7 million prescriptions in 2011.1 Pharmaceutical giants have a lot to lose if doctors stop prescribing T4-only medications, no? Hmmm…
Doctors claim that synthetic T4-only medications are superior to natural desiccated thyroid and consider NDTs outdated and less reliable. Yet there are many thyroid sufferers who claim that synthetic T4-only medications failed to properly treat their hypothyroidism. For example, when I was on Synthroid, I found no improvement at all in my symptoms. It was not until I was prescribed a natural desiccated thyroid that I got my life back. You just have to take a look at thyroid communities online on blogs, Facebook and Twitter to find a multitude of people who swear by natural desiccated thyroid. If natural desiccated thyroid has changed our lives, could it change yours?
Since NDTs come from a natural animal source they cannot be patented. If mainstream doctors began prescribing natural desiccated thyroid over the patented T4-only medications, drug companies would NOT profit from the sales. Hmmm…
Internationally-known thyroid patient advocate Mary Shomon included the following information at About.com Thyroid Disease. This information is particularly important since I have readers from around the world here at Hypothyroid Mom.
Levothyroxine is the generic name for the synthetic form of thyroxine, a thyroid hormone replacement drug. This drug contains the synthetic form of one thyroid hormone, T4. Levothyroxine is the most commonly prescribed thyroid hormone replacement drug.
Brand names in the U.S: Synthroid, Levothroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid
Brand names in Canada: Synthroid, Eltroxin, and PMS-Levothyroxine
Brand names outside U.S.: Euthyrox, Thyroxine, Berlthyrox, Droxine, Eferox, Elthyrone, Eltroxin, Eutirox, Letrox, Levaxin, Levotirox, Levothyrox, Levotiroxina, Oroxine, T4KP, Thevier, Throxinique, Thyradin, Thyradin S, Thyrax, Thyrax Duotab, Thyrex, Thyro-4, Thyrosit, Thyroxin, Thyroxin-Natrium, Tiroidine
According to a post on CNN Health in October 2010 entitled “Does your doc get money from drug companies?”, a project called Dollars for Docs revealed that $258 million worth of compensation from seven drug companies went to health care providers in 2009 and 2010. The team of investigative journalists found that 17, 700 providers received such payments.2 Given that Levothyroxine was listed the SECOND MOST-PRESCRIBED DRUG in the U.S. in 2011 by IMS, is it possible some members of the medical profession have been payed by drug companies to prescribe these medications? Hmmm…
Natural Desiccated Thyroid
The best thyroid hormone replacement drug is the one that works best for that particular patient. Instead of looking strictly at T4-only medications, doctors should look at the bigger picture of treatment options, to find what’s best for each patient to alleviate their symptoms.
Some hypothyroid sufferers respond well to Levothyroxine treatment and that’s great. However what about all the rest of us that don’t respond well to these T4-only drugs? Why are we left to suffer without options by mainstream medicine?
Levothyroxine drugs contain the synthetic form of only ONE thyroid hormone, T4. T4 is only one portion of the thyroid hormone complex. Yes the majority of thyroid hormones produced by the human thyroid gland are T4, however T3 is the most active useable form of thyroid hormone that can be used in the cells of the body. The conversion of T4 to T3 is a critical element in this puzzle. By doctors strictly relying on T4-only medications, they are under the faulty assumption that our bodies are properly converting the T4 to active T3. For many hypothyroid sufferers like me, our bodies don’t convert T4 to T3 properly. In the care of doctors who prescribed T4-only drugs, my symptoms did not improve if anything they got worse. It wasn’t until I changed doctors and my Free T3 levels were found to be abnormally low and treated with a natural desiccated thyroid that I finally felt better and my symptoms improved. Thanks to a great thyroid doctor who knew to test my Free T3 levels, I got my life back. It should be about what works best for the patient, unfortunately in mainstream medicine this is often not the case. Read my post Top 5 Reasons Doctors Fail To Diagnose Hypothyroidism.
T4-only medications are only one component of the human thyroid gland. What about the missing T3, T2, T1, and other biological components of the thyroid gland such as calcitonin that are missing. Doctors are focusing on only one piece of the puzzle, what about the rest? The human thyroid gland is made up of many factors, and T4 is only one component. Aren’t these other factors important? Why would the human thyroid gland include all these components if they weren’t all important?
What brands of desiccated natural thyroid are available?
Brands include Forest Lab’s Armour, and Nature-throid and Westhroid by RLC Labs. There is a generic version of NDT made by Acella Pharmaceuticals. Canada’s desiccated thyroid made by Erfa is called Thyroid. There are also compounding pharmacies worldwide that produce compounded versions using the raw natural desiccated thyroid powder.
Am I saying that all hypothyroidism sufferers should be treated with natural desiccated thyroid? No not at all. We are each unique and what works best for us is individual. All the treatment options should be made available to find what works best for each patient. Some hypothyroidism sufferers respond better to synthetic T4 and synthetic T3 medications (such as Cytomel or compounded time-released T3). They may be allergic to pork or to the fillers in the natural desiccated thyroid drugs, or patients wish not to take desiccated pork product due to religious reasons, or vegetarians may not want to take an animal product. It’s about what works best for the patient and providing them with different possible options to try to see what works best.
Why not offer all the options to see what works best? Why has our freedom of choice in treatment options been taken away?
- IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2011. April 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.imshealth.com/ims/Global/Content/Insights/IMS%20Institute%20for%20Healthcare%20Informatics/IHII_Medicines_in_U.S_Report_2011.pdf ↩
- CNN Health. Does your doc get money from drug companies? 2010 Oct 19. Retrieved from: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/19/does-your-doc-get-money-from-drug-companies/ ↩