Prescription thyroid medications for hormone supplementation may be synthetic, natural (tablets made from pig thyroid gland) or bioidentical (made at a compounding pharmacy). So what’s the difference, and are some better than others? The answer depends on the individual patient’s needs.
Levothyroxin, which is marketed under the brand names of Synthroid™, Levoxyl™, and others, is a synthetic drug that is prescribed by many doctors for their patients with diagnosed hypothyroid conditions. Levothyroxin contains T4, which is the storage form of thyroid that is produced by the thyroid gland. The reason this drug has traditionally been prescribed is that under proper conditions the body converts T4 to T3, which is the active form of thyroid that you need to relieve the symptoms of hypothyroidism. For some, levothyroxin works well as a treatment; for others, however, this “T4 only” medication may yield limited results.
The problem that too many doctors overlook is that many patients have difficulty converting the storage form (T4) to the active form (T3) and therefore still have many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism even though they’re taking a proper dose of medication to treat it. This treatment can be made more effective by adding a synthetic form of T3 called Cytomel. If Cytomel is not given in this case, the next step a doctor may take is to prescribe statins for the high cholesterol, antidepressants for the fatigue and depression, and a range of other drugs to try to address the symptoms that may simply be the result of a poorly treated thyroid condition.
Another option is natural thyroid medication made from desiccated pig glands and marketed under the brand names of Armour Thyroid™, Nature-Throid™, Westhroid™, and others. These medications contain both T4 and T3 and many patients respond very well to them. The dosage is easy to adjust as patients report their symptomology once they’ve begun treatment, and this medication has been an excellent help for millions of thyroid disease patients.