Synthroid, aka levothyroxine, Often Prescribed for Mild Hypothyroidism, Has Absolutely No Effect on Symptoms | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

“During the past four weeks, have you been tired? Been exhausted? Had difficulty getting motivated to do anything at all?”


These questions — which a substantial chunk of the population probably could answer in the affirmative — appeared on a questionnaire used in a major European study published recently in The New England Journal of Medicine.


The authors were researching the effectiveness of a drug that is widely, if controversially, used to treat older adults with subclinical hypothyroidism, better known as a slightly underactive thyroid.


So many Americans take that medication — levothyroxine (brand name Synthroid) — that it topped the list of prescription drugs dispensed in the United States in 2015, according to the research firm QuintilesIMS Institute.


With 121 million prescriptions annually, levothyroxine outpaced statins, blood pressure meds — and everything else. A Johns Hopkins survey published last year found that more than 15 percent of older Americans were taking it.


So you’d think these study results would come as shocking news: The European team reported that in older people with mild hypothyroidism, the drug had no significant effect on symptoms. At all.


Yet once patients begin thyroid replacement, they rarely end it, even if they feel as draggy or achy as ever. “Here’s a golden opportunity for many patients to simplify their medication regimens,” Dr. Alexander said.