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Worst Pills, Best Pills Warns Against Using Armour Thyroid

But article is long on accusations, short on fact


Updated June 25, 2014

Why did Worst Pills, Best Pills - published by a group that claims to be a champion of consumer rights -- also choose to overlook the fact that the market for levothyroxine is nearly monopolized by one drug, Synthroid, which has a questionable reputation? For a complete history of all of Synthroid's legal and product quality troubles, see my Synthroid Chronology. An important part of the story was revealed in 1997, when The Nation chronicled the exploits of Synthroid in an article, "A Year in Corporate Crime.". The Nation article states:

About 8 million Americans spend $600 million a year on drugs to control hypothyroidism, and Synthroid gets 84 percent of their money. It has been around since 1958 and was the first synthetic thyroid drug. When it came on the market, the F.D.A. approved it without asking for trial data. That oversight has made it extremely difficult for rival thyroid drug manufacturers. Since there is no benchmark data on Synthroid, how could they persuade doctors that their products are just as good and are absorbed into the blood the same way Synthroid is? ...

The article then goes on to describe how Synthroid's manufacturer at the time suppressed research findings that showed that Synthroid was essentially interchangeable with far less expensive competitors, and that use of the cheaper drugs could save thyroid patients $356 million a year. The class action lawsuit against Synthroid that was filed on behalf of patients who overpaid for the drug for the years the research was suppressed is still in the courts, years later, and Synthroid still is substantially more expensive than its competitive levothyroxine products, and far more expensive than Armour Thyroid.

As for the article's suggestion that holistic practitioners are unethically promoting natural thyroid hormone, in some cases as part of a weight loss program, I would first ask, how exactly did Worst Pills, Best Pills come to its expert conclusion that natural thyroid is a "niche market for unscrupulous...practitioners? Was there research to back up this claim?

As for weight loss, it's no secret that untreated hypothyroidism can cause weight gain and prevent weight loss. Any competent physician consulting with a patient regarding weight loss would include a thyroid function test as part a basic blood workup, and treat any thyroid problems appropriately. Every day, practitioners across the country see patients who want to lose weight, and also complain of fatigue, hair loss, and other hypothyroidism symptoms - and are tested for thyroid disease. The fact that the vast majority of those overweight patients diagnosed with hypothyroidism will leave their doctor's office with a prescription for levothyroxine seems to have eluded Worst Pills, Best Pills.

But the mere fact that Armour carries a warning about improper use for weight loss is a meaningless argument, because the levothyroxine drugs carry the same warnings. Synthroid's package insert, for example, carries the following boxed and bolded warning:

WARNING: Thyroid hormones, including SYNTHROID, either alone or with other therapeutic agents, should not be used for the treatment of obesity or for weight loss...

In fact, because levothyroxine is far more familiar and popular with most physicians, it's likelier that a physician prescribing thyroid drugs for weight loss purposes would want to avoid scrutiny by following treatment guidelines for thyroid disease, and would prescribe levothyroxine.

Worst Pills, Best Pills asks why...

after over 25 years of advice to the contrary, is Armour Thyroid in the Top 200 most frequently prescribed drugs in the U.S.?

Clearly, if they had to ask this question, they really weren't doing their homework.

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