Thyroid Patients Facing Unavailability of Levoxyl and Levothroid

drugvialHypothyroid patients getting thyroid prescriptions filled are fast discovering that Levoxyl (a brand of levothyroxine drug – synthetic T4 – made by Pfizer) is off the market currently, and not due back on the market until at least the middle of 2014. Various excuses have been offered by the company – odor of the tablets, and so on — but they’ve pulled all sizes of Levoxyl off and it looks like it will be a full year before it’s back on the market. Meanwhile, Levothroid, another brand of levothyroxine, is also currently not available.

For thyroid patients taking Levoxyl or Levothroid, you’ll need to get an equivalent thyroid medication. Your options include the following:

  • Unithroid – a brand name levothyroxine drug (tablet)
  • Synthroid – a brand name levothyroxine drug (tablet)* (*Note – Synthroid has both acacia and lactose as fillers – so be aware of potential allergic reactions )
  • Tirosint – - a brand name levothyroxine drug (liquid cap – hypoallergenic)
  • Generic levothyroxine from various manufacturers (only recommended if you can ensure that you will get refills from the SAME manufacturer each time, otherwise you risk getting some variation in potency from one generic drug to the other, even at same dosage size)

Other options…

You may be interested in a natural desiccated thyroid drug, which includes both T4 and T3 in natural forms. (Some people do better with the addition of T3.) In that case, your options include:

  • Nature-Throid and Westhroid (from RLC Labs), brand name hypoallergenic natural thyroid drugs
  • Armour Thyroid (from Forest), brand name natural thyroid drug
  • Generic natural thyroid, from manufacturer Acella (considered to be good quality)

A subset of thyroid patients take straight T3. This can be in the form of the brand name Cytomel (synthetic T3), generic synthetic T3 (aka, “liothyronine”), or compounded, time-released (sustained-release) T3.

Compounding pharmacies can also do combinations of any thyroid drugs — levothyroxine, liothyronine, or natural thyroid. (Be sure that you use only a compounding pharmacy that is recommended by your physician for quality work on thyroid drugs.)

Are you having trouble getting your thyroid medications? Share your thoughts here in the comments.

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24 Responses to Thyroid Patients Facing Unavailability of Levoxyl and Levothroid

  1. j co says:

    i had a couple months of hell without proper meds bc levoxyl became unavailable. i am on my 15th day of nature throid and am LOVING IT. i have not found an agreeable endocrinologist yet unfortunately (NJ NY area), and am going to my 4th doctor tomorrow. Hopefully they will understand how much better NDT works for some people and be willing to work with me rather than let their arrogance get in the way!

    • Denise Schmidt says:

      ~Dr. Paul Capobianco, Long Island, New York … he understands thyroid issues fully, he was my doctor before I moved to Florida. I highly recommend him ! Also uses supplements, and tests correctly :-)

  2. larry gates says:

    hi
    i also have issues with mine as well im 53 and a writer here in toronto ,the meds they gave me have caused several issues including stroke like symptoms now they gave me new meds but since my levels are so high im afraid to take them,the compounded issue is tiring of body,blurry eyes,sudden breathing problems,faint spells,bulging eyes and what makes it worse is i never know when an attack is going to happen.these canadian doctors are so ignorant to the warning signs posted by the pharma companies that none so far have ever given me a straight answer,and one of them has been in service for 60 years and hes the one that gave me the wrong prescription to begin with, im really fed up and need to get this taken care of asap because i have plans on going to the states soon to publish ,does anyone know what i need to take to get rid of the issues,it appears my doctores here dont bother to update their journals
    lawrence gates
    author
    toronto ont canada
    647-763-0728

    • Wendy says:

      Hello Larry,

      Don’t blame the Canadian docs – there are stubborn, arrogant people everywhere and some of them just happen to be physicians, and a portion of that subset is in the States.

      Maybe there are more enlightened healthcare systems somewhere on the globe, but I sure do not have access to them. I am 65, and stuck with Medicare / Tricare-For-Life, which pays for everything (except co-pays and deductibles, of course) but is enlightened about nothing except cutting costs.

      That said, there are still enlightened people living and working in repressive systems – the human spirit is magical. Try to find one of these free-spirits to work with. My preferred doc is one; his specialty is internal med, and he is willing to work with my choice of endocrinologist / pharmacy. Too bad he is not a thyroid specialist – he’s my champion in other ways.

      I have my own “horror story” about thyroid medication issues and “fairly good looking” blood levels. Reasonable solutions to endocrine problems are apparently still in their infancy, even though research has been going on for a long time. Tired-and-true methods, ie porcine (natural) thyroid hormone replacement, seems to be out of fashion.

      We can put a man on the moon, but we still can’t fix his health problems, at least not with Big Pharma running the show.

      Your symptoms sound normal, considering the generics on the market. My own experience with “Mylan” brand generic for Levoxyl was similar to what you are describing, only I was taking a low-dose. I got the product insert sheet from the pharmacy, looked up the “inactive” ingredients – all seven of them – and found one to be a known carcinogen (FDA labelled as such, in Nov 2012.) Crazy-making! Then, the pharmacy wanted me to try another generic – no soap – my regular doc agreed to let me use a compound instead. The side-effects vanished.

      Follow your judgement, and try to insist on natural products and/or compounded, sustained release products, instead of letting them push generics on you. Personally, the way generics are regulated & controlled, I think they are tantamount to taking poison.

      Good luck to you, on both ventures.

  3. kathleen scherban says:

    I called my pharmacy and they called their supplier and was told that there is a full supply of the medication levothyroxin. i told them about the issue raised above in this article andthey were unaware of any supply issue.

    • Cynthia says:

      It’s the brand name Levoxyl that was recalled. Some of us can only use the specific brand name. This is RIDICULOUS. They gave us no warning.

  4. Sally G says:

    Here in N.J., we were told that there would be none until 2014; doctor was aware of it, but did not know the reason. Interesting to read of success with natural product; maybe an integrative physician would be more welcoming?

  5. Karen W says:

    I had been on Levoxyl for ten years. When I got my refill in April, it was changed to Mylan Levothyroxine without my knowledge. I then checked the Internet and learned Levoxyl is off market until 2014.

    I tried the Mylan generic and did very poorly. Felt awful. The inactive ingredients were the cause. I checked http://www.drugtalk.com and found the inactive ingredients of the main thyroid supplements. Best substitute so far in my opinion is Tirosint, a synthetic levothyroxine in gel capsule with only water as additive plus gelatin and glycerine in capsule. Check their Web Site. You can get a coupon for a free first time 30 days supply.

    Another source is a compounding pharmacy, Womans Intl, 1-800-279-5708. They compound the synthetic T-4 in a capsule with your choice of more than 20 different oils as only additive. Olive oil is one choice. I got a 30 day supply of .162 mg/day for only $15. plus 6.00 shipping. My insurance did not cover it.

    • Wendy says:

      You are lucky to be able to choose your product and your pharmacy. My compounded T4 costs $11 for 30-day supply (the insurance flat fee for compounds) plus $5 shipping. The ingredients are “immediate release” T-4, in a vegetable-based get capsule, cellulose filler. I am also taking a generic T3 (doctor prescribed – he would not give me cytomel or the compound, so I have to cut my pills in half to achieve the required dosage.)

      My endocrinologist is supposed to be the best in the area, but he has a product bias and prefers to stick with mainstream name brands. He wanted to put me on Synthroid, but I resisted.

      Mylan generic was awful!!! Why are the pharmacies stocking this poor excuse of a substitute?

  6. Maggie Taylor says:

    We had the same problem here in the UK
    Brands were withdrawn due to potency issues and various medical manufacturers amalgamated. It caused lots of problems for patients. Unlike USA we have general practitioners and large pharmacies who give patients the cheapest drug that they have bought that day. I was on 125mcg at one stage and was given tabs from two different manufacturers! I now see an independent pharmacist who is understanding and makes sure I get the same maker every time
    Good luck :-)

  7. Karen Garner says:

    Another great forum for information on thyroid supplements to Levoxyl is “Levoxyl is off the market”. The forum was set up by Mary Shoman who is an advocate for thyroid health . She has great experience and knowledge in the subject. But so do many thyroid patients out there! I am amazed at the number of informed and excellent comments on that site.

    I found a pharmacy in San Diego, Good Pharma, 858-488-9000, that will compound the Levothyroxine powder in a capsule with a filler of Vitamin C Powder USP(pharmaceutical/FDA approved for compounding). They also can use a filler of only microcrystallin cellulose. The amount of filler needed in ther capsule is approximately 125 mg, a much higher dose than the .18 mg. in Levoxyl, but should be tolerable to most patients unless one is sensitive to anti inflammatory agents.

  8. Tena Wallace says:

    I have taken Levoxyl for 20+ years. I take only the brand name Levoxyl because I don’t respond we’ll to the generic Levothyroxin. With my refill due last month, I was given the generic Levothyroxin with no warning and no explanation other than the manufacturer of Levoxyl had an across the board recall of that medication.
    Other than heart palpitations, my other symptom after 30 days on the generic is a severe persistent headache for nine days now. Nothing. NOTHING relieves the pain. I picked up my refill this morning, and read the side effect information. One symptom that requires contacting your physician is a severe persistent headache! After reading the responses on this blog, I learn the brand name Levoxyl may not be available until 2014!
    What are we supposed to do?? My pharmacist informed me this morning if the REAL reason for the recall. Someone apparently choked on a pill and because of the shape of the pill, they are redesigning it! HELLO the shape has been the same as long as I have been on it!
    I repeat, WHAT are we supposed to do?

  9. jen says:

    I have Hashimoto’s disease and the levoxyl is the only drug that worked for me they switched me to a generic and I took it back because they didn’t tell me at first I’ve been on Synthroid and suffering severe mood swings high stress levels anxiety my hairs falling out my skin is dry this is terrible I feel like death warmed over half the time I’m supposed to be getting married next year and I don’t think that I can handle this feeling for an entire year I’ve also gained 10 pounds which is not good for anybody if anybody comes up with any idea on a good replacement drug for Hashimotos disease please let me know

  10. JMilla says:

    I am posting today to offer hope to anyone who has been on Levoxyl and had to switch.
    My thyroid completely removed in 2008 after large goiter. My THS levels have been
    normal every year and my weight is healthy. After the recall my doctor switched me
    to Synthroid 88 on June 10th. I was fine for 60 days than out of nowhere the headache
    all of times hit, panic, insominia etc. I met with a nurse practioner who prescribes
    zoloft . I take 50 mg in morning and 50 mg in evening. I take something to help me sleep.
    Its now been almost 90 days and I am gradually coming back to ” Normal ” I fully believe that our hormones are a complex issue. The sudden removal of a hormone that our body was used to takes take to readjust. You will get through it– It just takes time.
    My headache is subsiding little each day. The Dr said my tSH are PerFECT with the Snythroid. I will admit getting the Snythroid in system is rough going –just takes patience. One thing I did find–I feel a lift in energy that I did not have while on Levoxyl. I am thankful there is pill that will regulate me. There were many prayers prayed for me as well. I think of the bible verse that says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. My prayers are for those still trying to adjust. I am encouraged by
    the fact I feel alittle better each day . One day at a time. God speed to you in this time.

  11. Tammy Hunt says:

    My levothyroid was pulled and the levothyroxine was put in it’s place without my knowledge. I am blind and nobody told me about the switch. I found myself questioning why there were so many changes in my health, then I began to become very anxious, having hot and COLD symptoms and then the big one my all my life low blood pressure shot up to dangerously high levels, I started having heart palipitaions and at the hospital once or twice a week. Then it was told to me that they would change me to synthroid….ha that made my bllood pressure elevate even higher and to a point that my doctor took me completely off the thyroid medications for four day….stating she thought it would be okay and then another doctor said lets try to put you back on the levothoroxine and give you some valium. Okay every then I got a call from endocrinoligists stating don’t go back on any just call around and see if you can locate the levothyrode….I will have the other medication in my system for about 6 weeks don’t worry…….I okay I know doctors are just practicing medicine but I thought the practice was reserved for lab animals or are we now sophisicated lab animals?

    • kathryn s says:

      I’ve been on Levothyroid for 20+ years and then this spring as all of you was pulled off that and have been on levothyroxine–I’ve noticed weight gain and sensitivity to cold and other really disturbing issues….HELP! who has successfully switched to an alternative and what is it? did the dosage change—thanks so much.

    • Maggie says:

      I have a situation, also. I tried many different meds and doses 20 years ago when I was first diagnosed as hypothyroid. The only medicine I could tolerate was Levothroid, manufactured by Forest Labs. I was very content and healthy until “Bam” they quit the manufacture. The reason I am sure we will never know the truth. Then my DR prescribed Levothyroxin in the same dosage….then I started with heart palpitations…moodiness ( I was very angry and irritated) hot flashes, headaches and insomnia. The Dr said I should take a natural thyroid hormone. So then it became a nightmare of trials. First we tried Armour throid in 30 mg dose… I got worse and even ended up calling the companies themselves to report sever reactions. By the way, I also called Forest Labs to inquire if they would ever put the Levothroid back on the market. I guess it is some type of political problem with the FDA. Then the Dr reduced the dose and I went to 15 mg of the Armour product. I could not tolerate this either.
      Then I did something I would not tell anyone to do.. I quit taking everything… I felt better for a while. I did forget to mention that I had been suffering nightmares whenever I did not have Insomnia. So while on nothing the headaches went away and the nightmares. Slowly, all the other side effects went away. But after about 6 weeks I became very tired… unable to really function after about 3 pm. Went back to the Dr and she said try Levothyroxin 75mcg.. this was the original dose of Levothroid I was on…. then the heart palpitations started again and brathing problems. I have always been a person with low blood pressure, very low and my resting heart rate is 58 bpm. Now my blood pressure had soared to the point that the Dr said lets do meds for it. I refused. So instead I tried cutting my pills in half!So at this point I have been feeling ok for several months.
      I am so sorry to hear of your problems. I think it is just a trial and error thing the Drs don’t really know. Just pay attention to your body and don’t take meds that are doing that to you. Read the side effects and call the manufacturer. They will talk to you. Good luck. I hope you get this post.

  12. Mario Colon says:

    I found out about the Levoxyl recall when I went to pick up my prescription. The pharmacy switched me to the generic Levothyroxine without saying a word. I got home and noticed that it was the generic and went right back to the pharmacy and then they told me that Levoxyl is no longer available and the generic is “the same thing”. It absolutely is not!!! I was on a generic for a while and had very poor results. Within 4 weeks of so after switching to Levoxyl, my levels were completely normal. Now, I am on Synthroid because I refuse to take the generic and have had some crazy side effects including: mood swings, insomnia, dry skin, night sweats, etc. Most of the side effects have decreased now. I am sleeping better and the mood swings and night sweats have stopped. The only thing that I am dealing with now is the dry skin. Now my insurance company (and employer) is telling me that they will not pay for Synthroid anymore because there is a generic available. I don’t know what to do anymore. My Doc is with me on this. He saw how ineffectually the generic was and agrees that I should not be taking them. I don’t get it. How can an insurance company and your employer dictate what meds you should be taking? Isn’t that a decision for you and your doctor to make?

  13. kathryn s says:

    I’ve been on Levothyroid for 20+ years and then this spring as all of you was pulled off that and have been on levothyroxine–I’ve noticed weight gain and sensitivity to cold and other really disturbing issues….HELP! who has successfully switched to an alternative and what is it? did the dosage change—thanks so much.

  14. l.mcpike says:

    I was put on thyroid meds years ago because drs did not know why I was swelling in my face and feet etc. After all this time I began doing some research I found that the pills are put together with sulfites, most drugs are. I have a life threatening intolerance to sulfites. So you can imagine, food, toothpaste, toothpaste, shampoo, etc, are challenges.
    Unfortunately people of all ages are dying without a cause. I have come extremely close. There is no antidote, worldwide. It could very well be that you are allergic to the sulfites in the thyroid meds. All pills have sulfites and some compounded capsules.
    I would be happy to give you more info for a better lifestyle.

    • Stacey says:

      Hello l.mcpike,

      I too, suffer from sulfite reactions very easily and had been on Levoxyl for 8 years before the recall in Mar. 2013, I was doing well but still had issues with joint pain, muscle pain and chronic headaches. I researched a lot and also in my findings I can not drink wines or beers due to the Sulfites that are added. I looked into in deeper and I seem to react severely when I take in anything that seems to contain sulfites. The new Levoxyl that came out in Feb 2014, has caused me a great amount of problems, burning inside my body, stomach cramping, bladder retention, burning skin, burning sensation of my eyes, nose that throat. I have concluded that is has to the Sulfites. But I need the thyroid med. I am at a cross road, what information could you share with me?

      Thank you
      Stacey

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