Thyroid Prescriptions In England - 2009

The world of thyroid opened to me a few years ago when someone very close plummeted into the hell of severe hypothyroidism. Since then there is an imperative to try to help other thyroid sufferers.

By blogging here maybe I can put forward some information, some ideas, which deserve wider airing. That might be something well known or obvious: sometimes maybe less so. And just occasionally it might even be interesting to you.

Today's snippet is about thyroid hormone prescriptions. The scale is astonishing. Sometimes people are told that thyroid disorders are rare, yet if all the levothyroxine prescriptions were dished out evenly there would be almost half a prescription per person across the entire population. Or, assuming 24 prescriptions per person per year, towards a million people. Only aspirin (33 million) and simvastatin (37 million) were more prescribed than levothyroxine. However it might feel, you are not alone in needing to be prescribed thyroid hormone.

If every prescription were for 28 100mcg tablets, even this huge number of prescriptions would represent only around 68 kilograms of levothyroxine. What's that? Two or three 25 kg bags of cement? That would fit into the boot of even the smallest car.

Liothyronine and Thyroid are prescribed at almost vanishingly low rates. I think these figures emphasise the unlikelihood of any individual getting prescribed either of these medicines. As for purified thyroxine or any other 'exotic' preparation, they don't even appear in the statistics.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Prescriptions . . . . . . . Cost . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cost

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .(each prescription) . . . (total - pounds)

Levothyroxine Sodium (T4) . . . . . . . 21,947,562 . . . . . . . . £2.25 . . . . . . . . . . .£49,382,015

Liothyronine Sodium (T3) . . . . . . . . . . . . 53,169 . . . . . . . .£40.48 . . . . . . . . . . . .£2,152,281

Thyroid (desiccated porcine thyroid) . . . . .1,275 . . . . . . . .£85.52 . . . . . . . . . . . . . £109,038

. . Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22,002,006 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . £51,643,333

These figures are for the NHS in England only for the whole of 2009. I have no reason to believe that the other parts of the UK are substantially different but decided that including them added complexity to no real benefit. Private prescriptions may be significantly different but I do not have any statistics at all – not even to support my guess that the number of private prescriptions is probably very small.

Typically a single blister pack of 28 tablets would be one prescription. Thyroid is usually Armour so would be in packs of 100 tablets. Cost does not include dispensing costs.

The information is derived from the data available from the Department of Health here:

ic.nhs.uk/statistics-and-da...

Rod

8 Replies

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  • Thank you for this! I do like your opening paragraph ... sounds like you have been supportive to someone!

    <b>Updated on Jun 25 2010 8:26PM:</b> and as far as I know purified levothyroxine is a similar cost to NDT

  • It's so strange you writing a blog on this topic now! One of our Board members has just finished putting together a beautiful Excel package on this very topic including charts and a comparison through the years!

    We will be discussing it at our next Board meeting in August and will be writing a report on it. Watch this space!

  • Thank you for this very interesting information Rod, it makes it very obvious why doctors are sometimes willing to prescribe T4 but not T3 or natural thyroid, like everything else it comes down to cost!

  • hi Samantha, do you want to ask this question in helpvine ? Tell us more about your symptoms there

  • very interesting blog I have often wondered what the exact cost of these drugs is so good to be fully informed.

    Sheila

  • Ironic that I keep reading about desiccated thyroid sometimes being cheaper than synthetic in the US. (Though availability has been an issue.)

    I'd suggest that much of the excess cost of desiccated (over synthetic) is due to it not being licensed - so every prescription has to be handled individually through a company such as Idis with their high costs.

    As for T3, that seems to be expensive everywhere.

  • If levo is the third most prescribed treatment on the NHS, I wonder still that there is so much misunderstanding about hypothyroidism.

    I bought my very first 28 tablets of T3 privately, paid around £30 in London.

  • Oneinthehand,

    I hope I didn't mislead - I claimed third place for levothyroxine as a single substance.

    It's quite possible that, for example, taking <all betablockers> or <all antidepressants> togther they would be ranked higher.

    Rod

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