thyroid2Way Back When

When I started in pharmacy in the late 1960s, we sold “tons” of Armour Thyroid. Month after month, the customers came back for their refills. When I opened my first retail pharmacy in 1983, we also stocked large bottles of Armour Thyroid. Shortly thereafter Synthroid hit the market in a big way. The drug company insisted that Synthroid was far superior to the “natural” thyroid extracts found in Armour Thyroid.

It wasn’t long and my large bottles of Armour Thyroid were replaced with smaller ones – and I was buying more and more Synthoid – at significantly higher cost, I might add.

I also noticed an increase in prescription changes. Some people were trying to break the tiny pills at home because the dose they bought was “too strong”. Others were taking two or three tablets, trying to see if they would have any effect at all. While many people were being switched to Synthroid we noticed that many just stopped using it – because of cost or side effects, or that it just didn’t work like their “old” thyroid medicine (Armour Thyroid). Very few people were ever switched back to the natural thyroid extracts. The drug companies had succeeded in convincing the vast majority of doctors that the levothyroxine found in Synthroid was now the standard for thyroid supplements. I recall that some insurance companies seemed to refuse to reimburse people who submitted claims for Armour Thyroid.

As the standard treatment for low thyroid, the makers of levothyroxine tablets enjoyed all of the benefits of a very popular product while the people who used it seemed to feel worse than ever.

Synthroid Today

Today levothyroxine is still very popular, but some dedicated patients and their doctors are taking a step back and evaluating what is actually the better treatment for low thyroid. Armour Thyroid – though now made by Forrest – is experiencing a modest comeback. I conclude that people who have to use a supplement for the rest of their life would prefer to use one that made them feel better and didn’t cause side effects – such as racing heart, sleeplessness, and huge weight gains.

Levothyroxine is a medication used to replace thyroid hormone in patients with low levels of the hormone (hypothyroidism). It is sold today as Synthroid, the fourth most commonly prescribed drug in the United States with annual wholesale sales of hundreds of millions of dollars. This drug has never been subject to FDA review.

As of 2010, the thyroid drug Synthroid still did not have the approved New Drug Application (NDA), needed in order to remain on the market

I’ve been banging the drum about the problems associated with poor diagnoses and improper use of levothyroxine for many years, all the while Synthroid sales remain strong.


  1. Treating hypothyroid patients solely with T4-only meds
  2. Dosing solely by the TSH and the total T4, or using the outdated “Thyroid Panel”
  3. Prescribing anti-depressants in lieu of evaluating and treating the free T3
  4. Telling thyroid patients that desiccated natural thyroid like Armour is “unreliable”, “inconsistent”, “dangerous” or “outdated”.
  5. Making lab work more important than the hypo symptoms which scream their presence
  6. Failing to see the OBVIOUS symptoms of poorly treated thyroid, and instead, recommending a slew of other tests and diagnoses.

Fast Forward to 2009

In 2009 we began to have difficulty obtaining Armour Thyroid. There has been no reasonable explanation about this issue. There are plenty of ideas and conjectures, but no facts. It is all but impossible to find commercial Armour Thyroid at any pharmacy.

Armour Thyroid is made from dried pork thyroid glands, referred to as Thyroid Porcine, USP. Compounders can obtain this powder and prepare replacements for common doses of Armour Thyroid.

Additionally, compounders have pure forms or T3 and T4 available and can prepare specific formulations of these ingredients that meet the exact needs of the patient. Our compounding pharmacists can assist doctors in deciding upon the strength of a T3/T4 mixture that may best meet the patients’ needs.