Thyroid Medication: If you take it you know how important it is to your body’s overall functioning. And for those of us who have no thyroid glands at all, it is not only important, but it is essential to life that we take thyroid replacement hormone every day.

But regardless if you need thyroid replacement because your own thyroid is not functioning properly or if you’ve had your thyroid removed…you know that the thyroid medication that you take affects how you feel and how your body is able to function.

For the past few years, ever since Forest Laboratories changed their formulation of the Natural Desiccated Thyroid Medication, brand name Armour Thyroid, patients have many questions. For those who don’t feel well using the newly formulated Armour Thyroid medication the important thing to remember is that just because Armour has been changed, this does not mean that you are stuck taking Synthroid or Levothyroxine. Furthermore, Armour Thyroid was just a brand name. There are two other types of natural desiccated thyroid hormone medications that reportedly work very well for most patients seeking a natural desiccated thyroid hormone medication.

The two other natural thyroid desiccated hormone meds are:

1) Naturethroid – Available in the United States
2) Erfa – Thyroid Patients can Mail order it from Canada with a  prescription from your doctor

Now some patients are reporting that they’ve switched to Naturethroid and then at some point in their local area when they go to refill their medication their pharmacy tells them that Naturethroid is on backorder.  While a particular pharmacy may be on backorder, we have not heard of any patients who have not been able to obtain Naturethroid over the past 18 months if they simply follow these simple tips.

A: First of all, don’t wait until your prescription runs out to get your refill.   It is important to plan ahead to make sure you can get your thyroid medication and this is as important for thyroid patients as heart medication is to heart patients. So don’t just “hope” your pharmacy will have a refill. About 1 month prior to when your prescription needs refilled, call your pharmacy and ask them if they have it in stock and are keeping it in stock. If they are not, then you can go to plan “B” to make sure you’re not left without your thyroid medication.

B: If your regular pharmacy does tell you that they cannot get Naturethroid, then call around to other pharmacies. Most of the time in my city Walgreens and Randalls, A Safeway Pharmacy,  carries the Naturethroid, but even if Randall’s doesn’t have it in stock, they order it and can get it for me overnight.   So don’t rely just on the word of your one pharmacy and then think if the one pharmacy doesn’t have it or can’t get it that you’re “stuck” without it. That’s simply not true.

woman smilingC: Some thyroid patients wait until the last possible minute to refill their prescriptions because of insurance reasons, meaning that they feel that they should wait until their last tablet runs out before ordering a new supply because their  insurance may only pay for a refill once every 90 days.  Because my doctor writes my prescription for refills when I need them, I am not limited to only getting one prescription filled every 90 days, and because of the prior shortages of thyroid medication I do not wait until the last minute to get my refill. This means that although I have insurance, about once or twice a year, I get an extra prescription filled and pay out of my own pocket—which only costs me about 40.00 for the amount of tablets I get, and this way, I have an extra supply of thyroid medication should their happen to be another problem with the thyroid supply. I feel better just paying for the extra prescription and not using my insurance for 1-2x total a year if it means I can sleep better at night knowing I’m not going to run out of medication. I had to do this a few times when traveling because I would have been out of the country during the time when my medication refill was due, so I had to pay out of my own pocket to refill my thyroid medication before the 90 days were up so that I’d have an adequate supply of thyroid medication while I was on my trip.

D: The other way that will give you some leeway on your medications so that you’re not always down to the wire in terms of only having enough tablets so that you’re waiting until the last minute to refill your prescription is to ask your doctor to write your prescription for a higher dose. Many elderly or senior citizen patients do this all the time to save money. In fact, with most medications the cost of a tablet is the exact same no matter what strength or mg that the tablet comes in. For example, many times a one grain tablet of thyroid medication may cost the exact same as a 2 grain tablet—which if you are paying out of pocket for your medication , can save you 1/2 on your medication costs if your prescription is written for a higher amount than what you actually need. This also gives you double the amount of tablets thereby insuring that you will not run out of thyroid medication.

As is the case with all medications, you should always carry a card in your wallet listing your current medication dose, along with the names and doses of any non-prescription medications or supplements you may be taking. And make sure that a family member or the person who would be making health care decisions for you in the event of an emergency also is aware of the exact dose of medicine that you are taking if it differs from what is listed on the pharmacy prescription bottle.  You may also be able to keep your medical information online or purchase some sort of medical id bracelet which you can keep updated with your current medication dose.  The important thing is to always have safety in the back of your mind when making decisions about your health care. Speak to your doctor and find out what is the best decision for you. The one thing that is not a good idea is to stop taking prescribed medications because you cannot afford them.  Always consult with your doctor before making any adjustments to your medicines.

Some patients may read reports about patient’s having problems with the newly reformulated Armour thyroid and just assume that because Naturethroid was also recently reformulated, that they won’t do well on Naturethroid either. It’s important not to jump to these conclusions but for certain, if you are still on the newly reformulated Armour and are not feeling well, by all means try Naturethroid, or try Erfa Thyroid, but don’t just assume that you won’t do well on Naturethroid either. Everyone’s body is different and thyroid hormones to get everything optimized is often a combination of many different factors: not just the medication.

There’s nothing worse than feeling miserable because your body is not receiving the correct amount of thyroid hormone. Don’t get lost in a fog of indecision feeling like you have to stay on one medication if you are NOT  doing well. Most thyroid patients, if they are willing to be persistent and try other thyroid medications when one is not working for them, do report that they feel better and productive again.  But it takes effort. You’ll need to be involved in helping find out what works for you and what doesn’t!

Your well being is worth it, but you have to take the initiative and not settle for feeling less than your best.

Now, there are many other issues that can affect how your thyroid medication works, like are you on the correct dose of medication to begin with, and has your doctor ordered the proper thyroid testing? Also, how are your thyroid labs and have you optimized your iron, ferritin levels, and other things that can affect thyroid function? If it’s winter, did you know that the time of year can also affect how much thyroid medication you need? Join the thyroid discussion at Hospital if you have comments or questions about thyroid testing, thyroid treatment, or are curious as to whether or not you may have thyroid disease.