New thyroid medication welcomed

New treatment option for underactive thyroid

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The one in 33 Australians living with hypothyroidism now have access to a new treatment option.


THE one in 33 Australians living with hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, now have access to a new treatment option.

Levoxine (levothyroxine sodium) is a thyroid hormone replacement therapy listed for the management of hypothyroidism, and for thyroid tumours responsive to thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

The medication's PBS listing offers an additional treatment option to those living with the condition, that if left unmanaged, can be life-altering and debilitating.

Staff specialist endocrinologist and director of the Diabetes Centre at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Dr Ted Wu, said having a range of treatment options that people living with hypothyroidism can access, helps to ensure they find the right option that best suits their individual needs and lifestyle.

"A challenge in managing hypothyroidism is ensuring patient adherence to treatment," Dr Wu said.

"Evidence suggests 40 to 50 per cent of patients may not take their medication as prescribed.

"Doctors should consider treatment choice following patient consultation about medication administration, storage, adherence, and lifestyle.

"The PBS listing of a new treatment option ... will improve treatment access, and choice, for those affected."

Hypothyroidism affects almost 780,000 Australians, and up to 10 times more women than men. The condition most commonly afflicts those aged 60 and over.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland, located near the base of the throat, produces insufficient amounts of the hormone, thyroxine. Also known as T4, thyroxine plays a key role in controlling metabolism, and can impact heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and weight.

If left uncontrolled, hypothyroidism can cause serious health issues, including heart disease, infertility, birth complications and nerve damage, and in severe cases, can even prove fatal.

Although there is no cure for hypothyroidism, it can be effectively managed with thyroid hormone replacement therapies (HRT). This replaces the thyroxine the thyroid can no longer make, bringing T4 and TSH levels back to a normal range.

Consultant endocrinologist at St Vincent's Hospital Dr Kiernan Hughes said many symptoms of hypothyroidism are not specific to the condition, and can therefore, go unnoticed, or be difficult to identify early.

"The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, intolerance to the cold, unexplained weight gain, constipation, change in voice, and dry and flaky skin," Dr Hughes said.

"People living with hypothyroidism may also experience significant psychological symptoms, with up to 60 per cent of those affected reporting some level of depression.

"In addition, those with untreated hypothyroidism report worse quality of life, compared with those free from the condition, largely due to severe fatigue.

"Weight gain, and an inability to lose weight, known to afflict patients treated for hypothyroidism, can further substantially compromise the quality of their lives, and cause feelings of anxiety and depression.

"Developing an effective management plan tailored to each individual can improve both the short and long term outcomes, and the quality of life of those diagnosed with hypothyroidism."

Want to know more about thyroid conditions?

The Australian Thyroid Foundation offers education, support and advocacy on thyroid cancer and thyroid health. Find out more HERE