Roughly 5% of the population suffers from a thyroid problem. The thyroid gland is an essential part of the endocrine system and controls many bodily functions, ranging from body temperature to heart rate. The most common diagnosis is hyperthyroidism, where one’s thyroid produces too many hormones. The less-common counter to this is hypothyroidism, where one’s gland, of course, does not produce enough hormones. Common symptoms of this condition are hair loss and chronic fatigue. Either hyper- or hypothyroidism is diagnosed ten times as often in women than in men.
The latter of the two conditions can be treated by the synthetic hormone Levothyroxine, which falls under the brand name Synthroid. The drug is manufactured by Westminster Pharmaceuticals, located in Tampa, Florida. Several studies have shown that Synthroid can hurt many of the patients it is meant to help. Additionally telling is a recent voluntary recall of all Levothyroxine drugs during the summer of 2018. Months earlier, the FDA had sent a letter to a Chinese Pharmaceutical company, stating that they were not meeting many of the agency’s safety regulations, including “established standards of quality and purity.” Westminster believed that there may be potential harm to consumers, although no such cases were reported. However, the potency of many pills currently on the market were not the same as the bottle they were placed in.
In 2013, a study published in the Journal of Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology established a correlative link between Synthroid usage and lung cancer risk. The study initially states that Levothyroxine usage can cause oxidative stress, and this is a known driver of cancer growth. Researchers looked at the prevalence of difference types of cancers in Italy and measured this against the use of Levothyroxine in the region, accounting for external factors, such as smoking. They found that that women of all ages are up to 300% more likely to contract lung cancer if they also use Synthroid, but the research team stops short of stating that the drug causes lung cancer outright. Since this is one of the first studies in the subject, they, instead, suggest that more research be done on the topic. (Read it in its entirety [HERE].)
Disturbing as this study may be, it is nothing compared to what was discovered by the Endocrine Society. A March 2018 press release warned against the elderly using Levothyroxine because of an increased chance of mortality. Occasionally, one’s thyroid will not be properly functioning, but not to the point where it is officially classified as a medical condition. This is known as subclinical hypothyroidism and is very common, especially in the senior population. If a senior citizen in this vein uses Levothyroxine, then their chance of mortality goes up “significantly.” Joseph Meyerovitch, M.D, presented on the topic at the ENDO 2018, the 100th annual conference for the society.