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What to Do When Your Thyroid Drug Isn't Available

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Updated July 30, 2013

What to Do When Your Thyroid Drug Isn't Available
In my two decades as a patient advocate, I periodically get frantic calls and emails from thyroid patients worried about how to get their thyroid medications.

Typically, these are patients who are taking natural thyroid drugs. They are told by a pharmacist or a doctor that they can no longer get their medication because:

  • It's off the market
  • It's no longer being sold
  • It's been banned by the FDA
These patients are frustrated, and understandably outraged that the drug they take is no longer available -- and with no advance notice!

The truth is, these patients are getting incorrect information. And sadly, this is happening regularly. In fact, most patients who take natural thyroid drugs such as Armour, Nature-throid or WesThroid are likely to hear this rumor from a pharmacist, doctor, or endocrinologist -- sometimes several times each year.

It's true that almost all medications have periodic recalls for potency or quality. Various brand name thyroid drugs have all gone through temporary recalls in recent years.

But such recalls usually affect a particular batch, or just a particular dosage size, for a specific period of time. They do not effectively remove a drug from the market for good.

Occasionally, we see longer periods of lack of availability of particular thyroid drugs, for example the 2013 period during which levothyroxine drugs Levoxyl and Levothroid were off the market, expected to be available again in 2014.

So why are patients still being told that natural thyroid drugs are "off the market?"

In some cases, the misinformation is just a mistake. A short-term availability or stocking problem may be misinterpreted as the drug "no longer being sold." Or a recall of one particular dosage is mistakenly thought to affect the entire product line.

But in some cases, it's clear that there are pharmaceutical company hijinks going on, as some doctors and pharmacists are known to tell patients that they heard that natural thyroid drugs are being discontinued, and they heard it from drug representatives -- who work for competing thyroid drug makers.

You can read Is Natural Thyroid Going Off the Market for an assessment of some of the reasons why competitors -- and even doctors themselves -- might deliberately mislead patients.

In the meantime, what steps can you take if you are told that your natural thyroid drug is "off the market?"

  1. First, you should check here at About.com's Thyroid site, and make sure you are signed up for my weekly newsletter. Because if there is reliable evidence that a thyroid drug is going off or on the market, you can be sure you'll hear the official news here at my site and in my newsletters.
  2. Second, insist that your pharmacist or doctor confirm the "rumor" with actual information from the manufacturer. Ask them to call the manufacturer to verify any rumors. (You may need to insist that the word of the drug distributor or a competing manufacturer's sales representative is not something upon which you wish to base your health decisions.)
  3. Third, verify yourself, just to be sure. Again, you can call the drug company's patient line yourself.
  4. Fourth, if your pharmacist or doctor won't obtain or believe the correct information, it's time to get a new one. Sometimes, pharmacies or physicians receive financial incentive to steer patients toward particular drugs and away from others. This may explain why they're trying to dissuade you from taking Armour or telling you it's not available. If professionals in charge of your health are operating this way, it's time for a change.

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