Board Certified by the American Boards of Internal Medicine, and Endocrinology and MetabolismDr. Pepper received his medical degree from the Tufts School of Medicine in Boston. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Montefiore-Einstein Medical Center in New York. In addition, Dr. Pepper completed fellowship training in Endocrinology and Metabolism at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. More about Gary Pepper M.D.
By Gary M. Pepper, M.D.
(This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice or treatment)
During the Covid-19 pandemic my medical practice has been operating as normally as possible. The other day a young woman arrived wearing a surgical mask with a stack of medical records in hand, for a new patient appointment. Her difficulties began 6 weeks prior with intense tenderness in the right side of her neck just above the clavicle (collarbone) which varied in intensity over the course of about 10 days. Evaluation by her primary care physician uncovered newly elevated thyroid hormone levels. During our discussion she recalled a respiratory tract infection starting a week before the neck pain developed. Still complaining of lung congestion she denied fever or shortness of breath. Sitting comfortably, the thyroid was no longer tender but was slightly enlarged and unusually firm. Reading on it will become clear why my preliminary diagnosis is sub-acute thyroiditis, an inflammation of the thyroid following a viral respiratory tract infection, possibly Covid-19.Continue reading →
Do you wonder if you need t3 (Cytomel, triiodothyronine, liothyronine) added to your thyroid hormone treatment to feel normal again? The answer could be in your genes.
Recent discoveries reviewed by Antonio C. Bianco, M.D., Ph.D. at the recent American Thyroid Association meeting, reveal how genetic differences influence the effectiveness of thyroid hormone replacement. Dr. Bianco’s lecture focused on studies pinpointing inborn differences in the way people metabolism thyroid hormone to explain why t3 treatment of hypothyroidism is probably required by some to restore normal functioning of their brain, muscle and heart.
The most frustrating problem for people with hypothyroidism is being unable to convince their doctor that treatment with Synthroid, Levoxyl or similar pure t4 product, isn’t working. Continued symptoms of fatigue, weakness, inability to concentrate or think clearly, and inability to lose weight despite really trying, result in tension between the doctor and the “complainer”. When assessing the adequacy of thyroid hormone replacement therapy most doctors rely on the blood tests known as the Thyroid Function Panel. Typically this includes a measurement of t4, t3, t3RU, and TSH. Some panels may also include free t4 or free t3 measurements. If the hormone levels on these tests are “within normal limits” the doctor will often insist that the treatment is a success but it is the patient who fails to recognize this. A minority of endocrinologists know many of these “failures” can be turned into success by the addition of t3, the less utilized but much more powerful form of thyroid hormone.
Most of the biological effects of thyroid hormone in the body are due to the action of t3. The most common forms of thyroid hormone replacement however, involve giving t4 in the form of Synthroid, Levoxyl, levothyroxine etc. The t3 required by our tissues is produced by specific enzymes which convert t4 to t3 in the cells of the liver, kidney, brain, muscle, heart etc. These converting enzymes are known as deiodinases and under normal conditions they are responsible for about 80% of the body’s t3. The process
by which t3 is produced from t4 is known as peripheral conversion.
It has long been the contention of the leaders in thyroid disorders that based on their arithmetic, t4 replacement is sufficient to provide all the t3 the body needs via peripheral conversion and giving t3 supplementation doesn’t make good medical sense. Now, based on the new information provided by researchers like Dr. Bianco, the “arithmetic guys” will, in my opinion, need to revise their thinking finally allowing the way for acceptance of t3 replacement approaches.
I will continue the explanation of the new breakthrough in genetic control of thyroid hormone replacement treatment in Part 2 of this post.
DTE stands for “desiccated thyroid extract” which is made up of thyroid hormones refined from pig thyroid and used to treat people with hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone). This is possible because human and pig thyroid are very similar in the production of the 4 known thyroid hormones. For over 100 years, DTE had been used successfully to treat hypothyroidism.
T4, also known as levothyroxine, is the most abundant of the 4 thyroid hormones and synthetic levothyroxine has almost completely replaced DTE treatment since the 1980’s. There is no scientific evidence however, that synthetic T4 is better than DTE for treating hypothyroidism. The almost universal switch to levothyroxine and away from DTE appears to be due to a shrewd worldwide marketing campaign by the makers of brand synthetic T4.
Due to this marketing, Synthroid, the major brand of synthetic T4, became the most widely prescribed medication in the U.S. during the 1980’s and 90’s. Only in recent years has the medical community begun to recognize the failure of synthetic T4 to properly treat all people suffering with hypothyroidism, and the role of DTE to improve results.
The mission of the The Thyroid Project is to encourage sharing of information and experience between the public and the medical community about the treatment of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). For at least the past few decades there is a growing awareness of “something missing” in the way suffers of hypothyroidism are treated for their disease.
Too many patients, as documented in an on-line study of 12,000 individuals conducted by the American Thyroid Association published in June 2018, (https://doi.org/10.1089/thy.2017.0681) , complain of persistent symptoms of hypothyroidism despite what their doctors believe is successful treatment with levothyroxine (brands include Synthroid, Unithroid, Tirosent, Levoxl). We believe something needs to be done to resolve this conflict between patients and their doctors. Continue reading →
For decades doctors have recognized synthetic thyroid hormone known as levothyroxine or brand name Synthroid, as the undisputed choice for treating hypothyroidism (low thyroid function). By virtue of hypothyroidism being extremely common levothyroxine has been the most prescribed medication in the U.S.
According to key medical organizations in this country, the only acceptable treatment of hypothyroidism is the use of levothyroxine alone. Using any other form of therapy is not recommended. Pointing to a significant number of patients receiving levothyroxine who continue to complain of symptoms of hypothyroidism health advocates have been calling for recognition of alternative treatments. One such alternative with a small but enthusiastic following is extract of pig thyroid (desiccated thyroid extract). All of the major organization of endocrinologists fail to recommend this form of treatment but in particular the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologist or AACE in the US has flatly stated this form of therapy should never be used. Physicians and their patients remain deeply divided on this issue.
In the spring of 2017 the American Thyroid Association (ATA) convened a symposium on treatment of hypothyroidism and determined that “it is important to describe the patient perspective regarding hypothyroidism treatment and to share it” with the medical community. Now, after an enormous expenditure of time and effort, the results of their survey of patients being treated for hypothyroidism were published on-line. The full report in print will become available in the coming months. Here are some to the highlights of the ATA analysis of over 12,000 participant responses.
Overall satisfaction with the present choices of thyroid hormone treatment is 5 out of a possible 10Treatment satisfaction with desiccated thyroid extract (DTE) such as Armour and NP Thyroid was highest at 7 out of 10.
Lowest satisfaction was with levothyroxine or Synthroid alone at 5 of 10
Treatment with levothyroxine plus t3 (Cytomel, tri iodothyronine) was next best at 6 out of 10
Patients taking DTE were less likely to report problems with weight management, fatigue, mood and memory as compared to levothyroxine alone or levothyroxine plus t3
The authors conclude, “a subset of patients with hypothyroidism are not satisfied with their current therapy or their physicians” and “higher satisfaction with both treatment and physicians is reported by those patients on DTE”.
After decades of dispute among physicians themselves about the best ways to treat hypothyroidism, patient are finally having their say. Some readers of this blog may have been among the participants in the survey and deserve great credit for sharing their experience with the medical community. It is hoped that this survey will mark a turning point in the discussion about treatment of hypothyroidism and help to forge a change in the way physicians approach this very common and often disabling condition.
Weight management is a key component of a healthy lifestyle although keeping one’s weight on track is often a frustrating and perplexing task. To get the whole family involved in the weight management effort may seem almost impossible.
Simply identifying a younger member of the family as overweight can be a challenge.
A 2015 study from the U.K. found that 31% of parents underestimated their child’s weight status. For a child who is “very overweight” per government guidelines there was an 80% chance the parent would classify the child as healthy weight. Teens themselves are not very good at identifying themselves as overweight as 80% of overweight teenaged boys and 71% of overweight teenaged girls perceived themselves as normal weight. Recognizing that a child is overweight is crucial to preventing the progression to adult obesity. 72% of overweight kindergartners were obese by the time they reached 8th grade. Continue reading →