CityBeat Magazine 10/25/2001
To My Website Readers: The following article was written by me in 2001. Synthroid finally received FDA approval for use in 2002, 46 years after it was first placed on the market. Google “Synthroid FDA Approval” for the details.
I bet you thought that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was there to protect you, didn’t you? Your physicians would never prescribe a drug for you that hadn’t been tested properly, would they? Surprisingly, there are many untested and unapproved medications, Synthroid for hypothyroidism and Ritalin for ADD in children are two examples. Surprising mostly for those who place blind trust in the medical establishment. And imagine that there are some who will not take herbal or nutritional products because they aren’t FDA approved.
In the case of Synthroid, developed in 1955 to treat the symptoms of hypothyroidism (fatigue and weakness, weight gain, dry skin, cold intolerance, muscle cramps and pain, carpal tunnel, constipation), it has become the 3rd most prescribed drug in America, behind Lipitor for high cholesterol and Premarin for menopause. It has been constantly surrounded by controversy. Due to a powerful marketing campaign by its manufacturer Knoll Pharmaceuticals, recently purchased by Abbott Laboratories, it is prescribed almost exclusively for hypothyroidism by mainstream physicians. This marketing campaign has led to class action lawsuits that resulted from an investigation, began in 1996, that alleged that Knoll was violating consumer protection laws by attempting to prevent publication of the results of a research study showing that generic and competitive brand names were equivalent to the Synthroid brand. Decided against the manufacturer, the proceeds from an escrow account, approximately $100 million plus interest will be paid to consumers who have filed as part of the lawsuit and agree to release all claims against Knoll. According to Knoll, an estimated 778,000 consumers will receive payments of about $111 each if they began taking Synthroid before 1/1/95 and about $74 each if they began taking Synthroid after 1/1/95. Remember that it hasn’t been approved for use in hypothyroid patients and Knoll recently applied for a waiver of requirements for “adequate and controlled studies”. But that’s not the worst. It’s ineffective (maybe that’s why there are no adequate and controlled studies) and there are more effective natural therapies. You may be comforted to know that Abbott Labs has finally submitted a new drug application on August 1, 2001!
Additional evidence as to why physicians routinely prescribe Synthroid can be understood knowing that endocrinologists are the driving force behind the use of Synthroid and Knoll Pharmaceuticals has funded their organization, the American Thyroid Society to the tune of $1 million. Always follow the money trail.
To understand why Synthroid doesn’t work, a simple explanation is needed. There are 2 glands involved, the anterior pituitary and the thyroid, and 3 hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T3 and T4. Though the human body is very complex, some processes are very simple. Think of it this way: when a hormone is released, instructions are communicated to another part of the body to perform another function. With that in mind, the anterior pituitary, which also monitors blood levels of many hormones, releases thyroid-stimulating hormone, which as its name suggests, stimulates the thyroid to secrete T3 and T4 for use in other parts of the body. T4 is converted into T3 in healthy people and T3 is the main hormone needed to overcome the symptoms previously mentioned that are associated with hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, Synthroid contains only T4 and not everyone is healthy enough to make the conversion into T3. A simple lack of selenium, the most deficient mineral in our diets, is only one of many possible deficiencies that will make you “unhealthy” enough to prevent this conversion.
The reason that Synthroid contains only T4 is because T4 signals the anterior pituitary to produce “normal”levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone, and the traditional medical establishment, in it’s infinite wisdom, believes that “normal” thyroid-stimulating hormone levels define a healthy patient. A normal thyroid-stimulating hormone level in the presence of the other symptoms associated with hypothyroidism leaves the physician scratching their heads. This is when a patient hears that the physician doesn’t know what’s wrong with them or it’s in their head. Didn’t I just say that T3 was the most important hormone for a patient suffering from hypothyroidism?
Wouldn’t it be more effective to take a medication that contains T3 in proper amounts and T4 in smaller amounts or none at all? Thyroid-stimulating hormone would not be artificially normalized to suggest an inaccurate picture of health and T3 would be present to help overcome the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Those medications, Armour Thyroid, Thyrolar and Cytomel do exist, but the majority of physicians don’t prescribe them. Armour and Thyrolar both contain T3 and T4 in more realistic amounts and Cytomel contains just T3 and is the most effective. Only Armour is a natural hormone. Interestingly, Armour Thyroid was the sole medication used for hypothyroidism for the 1st half of last century and was the adversary that Knoll conspired to eliminate out of the market. Along with dietary changes and proper nutritional supplementation, there still remains an outside chance for restoration of proper thyroid function using none of these medications, depending on many circumstances.
Hypothyroidism may also be missed as a diagnosis in many patients. Lab results from traditional laboratories are inaccurate because they are not sensitive enough to differentiate between T3 and rT3. No detailed explanation is necessary, just suffice it to say that rT3 is the brake that controls the overall amount of T3, and in traditional lab tests, rT3 and T3 are counted together, giving a false level of T3. Traditional medicine, as usual, not making this very important distinction, leaves many patients unaware that they have deficient levels of T3 and therefore have hypothyroidism.
Once again, don’t take for granted that you are receiving the best care available; ask questions. To be sure, always ask an alternative physician, you might be surprised what you will learn. Your health might depend on it.