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Mary Shomon

American Thyroid Association is Spreading Misinformation About Natural Thyroid

By November 27, 2009

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Is it any surprise that doctors, pharmacists and drug distributors are misinformed about natural desiccated thyroid drugs, when a medical association like the American Thyroid Association is putting out -- perhaps deliberately -- error-filled misinformation?

Here's what the American Thyroid Association (ATA) has to say about natural thyroid medications in its online brochure on Thyroid Hormone Treatment.

Desiccated (dried and powdered) animal thyroid (Armour®), now mainly obtained from pigs, was the most common form of thyroid therapy before the individual active thyroid hormones were discovered. People can still buy it over the Internet--legally if it's sold as a food supplement, but illegally if it's sold as a medicine...
Let's take a look at all the inaccuracies and falsehoods the ATA managed to fit into just two sentences.

First, Armour Thyroid is a brand name for prescription desiccated porcine thyroid. It is not synonymous with "desiccated animal thyroid."

There are many forms of desiccated animal thyroid -- including porcine (pig), bovine (cow), and even desiccated thyroid from sheep.

Some animal thyroid is sold over-the-counter, without a prescription in the U.S. and abroad. These are called "glandular supplements." Porcine thyroid sold as a non-prescription glandular in the United States can not, by law, contain the natural form of the hormone T4 / thyroxine. Understandably, most physicians in the U.S. do not recommend the use of non-prescription glandulars for thyroid hormone replacement.

Porcine desiccated thyroid that includes T4 is a prescription-only product. Armour Thyroid is one brand of prescription natural desiccated thyroid prescribed in the United States. The two other brands currently being manufactured in the U.S. include Nature-Throid and Westhroid. These drugs are not "animal" thyroid, they are porcine thyroid, and they are not "mainly obtained from pigs." They are obtained from pigs, and no other animals.

The American Thyroid Association is wrong when they claim that "people can still buy it over the Internet-legally if it's sold as a food supplement..." Armour Thyroid and other prescription brands of natural desiccated porcine thyroid like Nature-Throid and Westhroid are not sold as food supplements. They are FDA-regulated prescription drugs, and like any prescription drug, they require a physician's prescription to legally dispense, and can only be purchased from a pharmacy.

The American Thyroid Association is again wrong when they say that "people can still buy it over the Internet-...illegally if it's sold as a medicine..." If a patient has a prescription for a natural desiccated thyroid drug like Armour, Nature-Throid or Westhroid, then it is entirely legal to use an Internet pharmacy to fill that legal prescription.

(Note: What is illegal is to purchase any prescription drugs without a prescription, whether you buy them on the Internet or not. But that is true for any drugs, and the fact that it's illegal to buy drugs without a prescription is not specific to thyroid drugs.)

Let's have a quick recap of the many ways the American Thyroid Association has gotten it totally wrong:

  • Armour (and other prescription natural desiccated thyroid drugs) is porcine (pig) thyroid -- not "mainly obtained from pigs."
  • Armour is not synonymous with "desiccated animal thyroid" -- Armour is ONLY porcine thyroid.
  • People can NOT legally buy prescription porcine desiccated thyroid drugs over the Internet.
  • Prescription porcine desiccated thyroid drugs are FDA-regulated medications, NOT food supplements.
  • Prescription porcine desiccated thyroid drugs are NOT sold legally over the Internet as food supplements.
  • Prescription porcine desiccated thyroid drugs CAN be legally sold as medicines on the internet, by approved pharmacies to patients with prescriptions.
So, why does the American Thyroid Association have such a load of hogwash (pun intended) about natural thyroid drugs up at their site?

Could the American Thyroid Association -- the nation's primary thyroid professional organization -- be demonstrating a tendency toward lazy research and poor fact-checking?

Or is the huge check Abbott Laboratories -- maker of Synthroid -- writes each year to the American Thyroid Association having the desired effect? After all, the American Thyroid Association did receive more than $704,000 from Abbott in 2008. (Don't believe me? Check out their tax return, online in PDF.)

I tend to suspect that the American Thyroid Association knows exactly what it's doing. But it has an interest in muddying the water, and helping hike up the market share for levothyroxine drugs. After all, doesn't every pig at the trough (again, pun intended) want to make sure the trough doesn't dry up?

Are you interested in making sure that natural desiccated thyroid drugs are not railroaded off the market by big pharma and endocrinologists who are "under the influence?". Learn more about the efforts to help legitimize prescription natural desiccated thyroid drugs and ensure that they remain on the market at the following sites:

Want to Follow the Thyroid Money Trail?

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November 28, 2009 at 9:33 am
(1) Jacqueline says:

Wowza!!! What a bizarrely inaccurate press release from the ATA. I had no idea about the connection with Abbott Laboratories, but now it is all making sense. I am sending a link to your blog to the ATA, so maybe they will put out a correction (or at least they’ll know people are calling them out for their inaccuracies ;-)

I know Women to Women has a thyroid program that counsels women to take Armour. They put out a press release too a few weeks ago on Facebook, here it is… Maybe a way to counteract the poor info from the ATA? For women who use natural thyroid hormones — availability and alternate solutions

Keep up the good work!

November 28, 2009 at 10:05 am
(2) Janet says:

My doctor switched me to Synthroid and Cytomel. I was unable to get Armour Thyroid from the pharmacy around me. I was told it’s not available anymore. Also, I find sites on hypothyroidism but none for post thyroidectomy hypothyroidism. Are there other things to look for? I had my thyroid removed 16 yrs ago and am still searching for info on how to feel the best I can.

November 28, 2009 at 11:46 pm
(3) Marion Dixon says:

Mary would it be possible for us to hire a lawyer and sue the thyroid association and the FDA for putting the ones of us that are severely allergic to the synthetic thyroid drugs in danger.to me I am so allergic to synthroid that I could not survive on it ,in other words I do not have a thyroid and would die if they discontinue the natural thyroid drugs.I did get my armor filled 2 weeks ago and am feeling some better but not quite as good as I did on the old armor.However the thyroid I had been taking from canada made me feel to hot all over and caused a rash on my legs and arms it seems that I can’t take anything but armor,for years I felt so good on armor that I didn’t even realize I didn’t have a thyroid,that was the good old days before this shortage and new formula,but still I am better off on the new armor than the other drugs.

November 29, 2009 at 4:47 am
(4) sue W. says:

I have or had Hyperthyroid. It came on very suddenly where I was hospitalized and lost half my body weight within a few weeks. I was told I had to take the radio active iodine and kill the thyroid since I had the biggest goiter they had ever seen. I refused, even though I as threatened, went on the net and found Chinese herbs. Thyroid- Throu. Expensive but I still have my thyroid and have not had a problem since and no need for pills. Going on 4yrs now.

December 4, 2009 at 4:29 am
(5) redplanet says:

The only way to make noise, be heard, and receive action today is through power, money OR a twitter campaign.


December 4, 2009 at 7:12 am
(6) Anne T. says:

Unbelievable! My Doctor is at wit’s end with me because I absolutely refuse to switch from natural product to synthetic. He refused to fill out the paperwork so I could get natural thyroid from Canada and finally after an exhaustive search found a compounding pharmacy. The cost of getting medication has doubled but synthetic did not work for me and I will not return to it no matter what his assurances are.

Am I surprised to read that Abbott Labs has their monitary fingers in the proverbial power-based pie? Nope, but what I am surprised to discover is that apparently the hippocratic oath is no longer based on preserving our health and completely based on who has the best bribe and that the ATA has hopped onto that little bandwagon. Maybe we should grease some palms?

December 4, 2009 at 8:12 am
(7) Dawn says:

No surprise to me. Corruption , crooks and criminal. I am sick and tired (no pun) of the people at the top ruining it for all. We must not stand quiet. As Martin Luther King stated: We must not be silent on that which is important.

December 4, 2009 at 9:08 am
(8) Telessa says:

It is no wonder that so many of us feel so crudy. Do you really think that my Doc is going to listen to me and my feelings vs. the the ATA.

December 4, 2009 at 9:12 am
(9) PCE says:

Mary, could you clarify the section about what the thryoid association got “totally wrong”? I had to go back and forth to figure out if the bulleted list was wrong or correct. Maybe if you said. ” Let’s correct what the thryoid association got wrong–then make true statements.” Then, i someone pulls the bulleted items out of context, the statements can standalone as correct.
Yes, I am a thyroid patient who is also a writer/editor–in DC as a matter of fact. I just started on natural thyroid this summer. I have felt better than I have in a very long time. So, this shortage is very discouraging. Your site is extrememly helpful.

December 4, 2009 at 5:42 pm
(10) Victoria says:

I am so blessed to finally find a doctor who listens to me, was willing to prescribe Armour, and is now willing to prescribe a compounded. With a little levothyroxine added to either of these I am feeling better than in a long time. :)

I have seen so many doctors who didn’t know how to properly read a simple TSH test. Some meant well; some just didn’t care at all. It’s worth it to keep seeking to find a good doctor.

December 5, 2009 at 12:42 am
(11) Lindy says:

Well said, Mary! And thanks for bluntly getting to the point! And we wonder why healthcare costs continue to skyrocket???!!! It’s too many pigs at the trough! Unfortunately, I think healthcare reform is doomed unless Congress can find a way to pry the pigs away from the trough. BUT, then again, BIG PHARMA is now one of the biggest and most powerful special interest lobby. Just look at their meteoric rise after they lobbied Congress to allow advertising direct to consumer in TV, magazine and newspaper ads! They just can’t drug us enough! They want to saturate us with as many unnecessary drugs as possible!

AS a sidenote, have you heard some of these BIG PHARMA companies are owned by the oil companies? Can anyone verify this as fact?

December 5, 2009 at 12:24 pm
(12) Jan Walker says:

It’s not surprising that the makers of synthetic hormones are trying to mess things up for those of us who depend on hormones and prefer the natural ones like Armour. It also wouldn’at surprise me at all if Forest Labs is in a dirty collaboration (meaning being bought off) by them. If you want to read about the dirty dealings with big corporations, just read Kevin Trudeau’s books, Natural Cures- as he says, it’s all about the money. I believe thousands of us ought to have a fit, collectively with the government, (although they aren’t pristine clean either), demanding that the pharmaceutical companies don’t call the shots, and neither do the politicians, but the actual citizens who pay their salaries, and give them all those fabulous benefits, (health insurance etc.)

December 6, 2009 at 5:49 pm
(13) Paula says:

This is horrific. In all the research I’ve done over the last couple of weeks, this pretty much takes the cake.

Have you or any other thyroid activists thought of starting a 501-c-3 organization to to oppose them; fund studies concerning the inefficacy of the lab tests, and compare desiccated thyroid to Syntharoid?

One of MY heroes is Mary Lou Ballweg at the Endometriosis Assn. I found her info back in the 1980′s. SHE now gets invited to prestigious medical conferences on Endometriosis, and speaks at them! It’s a bit different way of looking at it, but she changed a whole lot in a hurry. Before her, docs were still calling it the “working woman’s disease,” and blaming it on being too ambitious. . . no one gets away with that now.

December 7, 2009 at 7:10 pm
(14) Vicky says:

I sent them an email and was stunned (NOT!) by their total lack of response. I tried to call them but could not get through to a human – just pre-recorded messages or an endless ringing phone. I think they know exactly what they are doing and are going to stonewall ‘us’ (you know, those silly patients who think they function better on natural thyroid drugs – when will we ever learn?). Make you want to go off your meds and get ‘hypo’ on them …

December 10, 2009 at 1:15 pm
(15) Christine says:


Something like 65% of all research in this country is now financed by big pharma – Well if you want bad research or better yet the best research to support your new product (Synthroid) you pay for it!

Then pay these big doctor experts big consulting fees to testify against us little people in court so that insurance companies don’t have to pay. It’s all conflict of interest both in our government, big pharma and insurance. Follow the money………$$$$$

These are your elected officials – get involved! Say no more…………


January 5, 2010 at 12:21 pm
(16) Sandy says:
January 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm
(17) Sandy says:

American Thyroid Association – 2008 Income Tax Return:
1) Abbott Laboratories 704,739 makers of Synthroid
2) Genzyme 198,500 cancer drug Thyrogen
3) Thanc Foundation 172,500 cancer research grants
4) Thyca 115,000 cancer survivor association
5) Astrazeneca Medical Education Grants Office 66,915 maker of Zactima – cancer drug
Abbott contributed 704,739, which is more than the amount of all other contributors (including contributors above numbered 2-5) which totaled 626,839!

November 9, 2010 at 8:07 pm
(18) corazon says:

I have microscopic papillary carcinoma .07 by .05 mm. It was discovered after my surgery on my right nodule. I never recieved any treatment yet. I am just worried? Is synthroid given by my endocrinologist is already the treatment? I hope somebody could give light on this. Thank you.


February 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm
(19) emme says:

Has anyone had any experience with desicated bovine thyroid? Am wondering how it compares to the porcine.

March 2, 2013 at 10:06 pm
(20) Allan says:

Sadly this is pretty typical behavior by pharmaceutical companies. They need us to buy patented drugs to maintain their profit margins. Patient health is a very secondary consideration. Anyone interested in the world of Big Pharma should read “Bad Pharma” by Dr Ben Goldacre – it’s a serious wake-up call.

June 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm
(21) NADERRAH says:

Can you please tell me what thyroid medication that does not have pork in it! I started taking Synthroid thirty years ago with no problems. Since Abbott Labs purchased it from the original owner. Abbott Labs have since changed the formula. Levothyroxine was not mentioned in the original formula.. I know there is pork in the formula that they are making now because I am allergic to pork. All of the side effect that they list now were never associated to Synthroid.

October 4, 2013 at 9:23 am
(22) Johnny says:

“The American Thyroid Association is again wrong when they say that “people can still buy it over the Internet-…illegally if it’s sold as a medicine…” If a patient has a prescription for a natural desiccated thyroid drug like Armour, Nature-Throid or Westhroid, then it is entirely legal to use an Internet pharmacy to fill that legal prescription.”
–You’ve clearly misconstrued the meaning of the ATA’s statement here by placing it out of context. I’m not trying to be a proponent of the ATA and their information that they are disseminating. I’m simply trying to further the cause of good reading comprehension.

“(Note: What is illegal is to purchase any prescription drugs without a prescription, whether you buy them on the Internet or not. But that is true for any drugs, and the fact that it’s illegal to buy drugs without a prescription is not specific to thyroid drugs.)”
–Ah yes, you did pick up the implicit meaning in their statement. Don’t act like they were lying to you though… Just admit that you probably shouldn’t have gotten out of the 9th grade.

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