According to a recent publication in the Wall Street Journal, some sufferers of hypothyroidism and several associated activist organizations are calling for more thorough screening tests and more effective treatment of the condition.
Though studies regarding alternative therapies and medications show conflicting results, Michelle Bickford, the 36 year old founder of the advocacy group, ThyroidChange, insists she experienced higher energy and less anxiety, depression and fatigue when she was prescribed a less commonly distributed, animal-derived medication. Bickford had been taking the popular levothyroxine prescription for hypothyroidism since the age of 11 but reports minimal alleviation of her symptoms until the switch.
Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical Center Jeffrey Garber, on the other hand, believes, “The vast majority of people are fine on the standard therapy.”
While thyroid patients and medical professionals may be at odds over what, if any, further research is needed, the complaints have called into question the effectiveness and reliability of the drugs presently prescribed to treat hypothyroidism.
Earlier this year, the brand Levoxyl recalled 52,000 bottles of levothyroxine due to a bad odor.
Uncertainty about stability and potency in a second batch of the drug led to another recall, potentially causing a shortage of the drug for the remainder of 2013.
Another levothyroxine brand, Synthroid has a long history of problems, including a class action lawsuit in the 1990s claiming millions of patients were overcharged for the drug, as well as more recent concerns over batch potency and stability.
Low potency of hypothyroid medication can cause serious harm to patients who depend on them, including little to no relief of symptoms and exacerbation of the condition. In such cases, patients may opt to take more than the recommended amount of the drug and an overdose is possible.
Thyroid disease affects 15 million people in the United States. The American Thyroid Association reports that approximately 50% of sufferers are not even aware that they have it, attributing it to other issues they are experiencing like aging, menopause or depression. The thyroid, a small, butterfly-shaped gland at the back of the neck, controls the body’s metabolism. It affects the functioning rate of cells, tissues and organs and controls heart rate, weight, temperature, energy level and muscle strength.
Thyroid malfunctions can happen in one of two ways.
The first, hypothyroidism, involves too little production of the thyroid hormone, causing the body to function at a lower rate.
Hypothyroidism is the most common type of thyroid disease, affecting 11 million Americans in 2012 according to the Center for Disease Control. Symptoms include:
• Memory loss
• Difficulty concentrating
• Coarse, dry skin and hair
• Intolerance to cold
Too much of the thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) causes the metabolism to function at a higher rate. Symptoms include:
• Irregular menstrual cycles
• Weight loss
• Irregular heartbeat
• Increased metabolism
After the age of 35, The American Thyroid Association recommends anyone with a family history of testing positive for thyroid disease be evaluated every five years. Doctors can provide a definitive diagnosis with a simple blood test to measure the levels of thyroid hormones TSH, T-4 and T3. If a doctor fails to diagnose or improperly treats thyroid disease, the patient can experience severe consequences including heightened lethargy, depression, anxiety, weight gain, hair loss, bulging of the eyes, and hypoglecemia.