Armour Thyroid Dropped by Medicare


After hearing the rumors, I was waiting for official notice that Armour Thyroid was being dropped from the Medicare formulary. The confirmation came by way of a form letter telling me that one of my patient’s prescriptions for Armour would no longer be covered by Medicare and asked if I want to switch them to levothyroxine. With that letter I understood that the only viable alternative to traditional t4 therapy for hypothyroidism is now officially shoved to the outer fringes of medical care in the United States.

Not to be naive about the role of Armour in this country, I already know that the use of this medication is considered “off beat” if not worse, by many of my colleagues. For years I also was skeptical of its viability as a treatment for low thyroid (hypothyroidism) conditions. What changed my mind was the realization that so little is truly understood about what constitues ideal thyroid hormone replacement. The endocrinologists who taught me that Synthroid (t4) was the gold standard of thyroid hormone replacement were speaking more from the unexamined prejudices of their generation, than from true understanding of the needs of their patients.

I have treated many patients with traditional t4 therapy who are doing fine. There is no reason for them to think about another type of thyroid hormone replacement. But for the portion of older hypothyroid individuals who fail to return to feeling normal on t4 alone and who have happily switched to Armour, there is now financial disadvantage if they want to continue using this medicine. Is this fair? Is it proper medical care to switch them back to what appears to be an inferior treatment? These are questions the community of thyroid patients and their doctors must now begin to address.

Comments welcome.

Share this post

20 thoughts on “Armour Thyroid Dropped by Medicare

  1. margo failing

    I take Armour Thyroid, have for 6 years now and am dismayed ALL prescription insurance policies of Medicare don’t even know about it…….United Healthcare dropped it Nov 2007…..since that time I have to buy it myself + keep a prescription policy paid monthly???!!!

    I’m hoping Armour Thyroid will be added back and would call someone if I knew who to present this to…..

    Thankyou,
    Margo

    Reply
  2. Lida

    Margo you can find Armour online on Canada pharmacies, is known by Thyroid in there, wich is Armour Thyroid here, is not that expensive and it is worth it. You still need prescription for this medication, open an account with them and scan your prescription and e-mail it to them. I did it before when there was a shortage on Armour Thyroid.

    Reply
  3. SUE TREVINO

    I cannot take synthetics thyroid after being switched to synthetic I developed a rash and abdominal swelling digesting food slowed down so bad I could not eat meat. Mayo said it was rare to have an allergy to synthetic but put me back on armour. I returned to normal gerd gone ibs gone etc. Now I am having trouble again and want to know if armour added a different filler. And What is it. Because Mayo said was allergic to fillers in the synthetic drugs.Mouth chalky and thirsty all the time figuring out what filler it is could help me recognized others meds I cannt take before I buy them
    I have a few months of armour but pain is almost intolerable. If armour changed their RX what do I do? Here piggy piggy? (I also have hoshimotos)

    Reply
  4. Tisha Sharp, PT

    As a health care professional AND a hypthyroidism survivor, I am infuriated with this development. Many of my geriatric patients are misdiagnosed and/or undertreated leaving these people in a perpetual state of misery!
    What I will do is write my Senators and Representatives and educate my patients’ families as this is where health care reform will either be revolutionized oreventually annihilate them, and truthfully, the rest of us.
    One of my goals in the coming year is to find a sympathetic Medical Director willing to test some of the nursing home patients that have been on Synthroid (at .50 or .88 mcg usually) by switching them to Armour. What a change we could witness, I am sure, but if Medicare shuts this door, so will many of our elderly’s lives and minds.

    Reply
  5. marilyn hirsch

    I am so frustrated that we the people of this supposedly great nation are left out in left field on this Armour Thyroid deal…I wonder if anyone out there, perhaps a lawyer, can suggest something we can do to make it public…so the nation KNOWS what the FDA and pharmaceutical monoply is doing to us the U.S. citizens of this country? I really think IF we could get our voices, lettters and phone calls OUT THERE..and if the politicians feared they would lose their comfy positions AND free health care..just MAYBE they would DO something to protect US the citizens instead of their banks accounts and freebies from the Drug companies. I read with interest where Pfizer is now having to pay billions of dollars for some unethical and dangerous things they did which resulted in real problems for the people..WHEN is enough going to be enough?. WE complain but someone out there GIVE US THE ADVICE the proper legal advice on what we can DO to right this wrong ful situation.I shall wait impatiently for someone’s helpful input. Thanks in advance..Marilyn Hirsch

    Reply
  6. Donal Merwyn: Campbell

    People in this country better wake up. It is not just this product that is under the gun,but many others including something people take for granted: “FREEDOM”. I, like many others are in a situation where medicaid will not pay, our gap insurance will not pay for perscriptions either.

    Reply
  7. carolyn hunter

    the re-formulated Armour was gradually killing me, but I didnt’ realize it till my mail order pharmacy told me they could no longer get it.

    In seeking a way to obtain it, I discovered the website: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com

    and THAT is when I discovered WHY I was getting so ill …that I was on the verge of death, and having all kinds of severe hypo-thyroid symptoms, even though I was still religiously taking all my meds including the Armour thyroid.

    That’s when I found out that the re-formmulated Armour was also having an adverse effect on MANY other hypothyroid patients…and that I was NOT ALONE. ……………..Since I was not even informed of the re-formulation, and gradually became sick with severe hypothyroid…it could be perceived as “blind”…as I had NO IDEA about others also having the same symptoms ………….for about at least nine months that I was suffering and gradually getting worse and worse. At that time, I had NO IDEA whAT was the cause.

    Gradually, ever since I was again getting the original recipie of dessicated natural thyroid from out-of-country, ……….and taking it ….I have slowly been improving….. and although I’m not yet as well as I used to be before the Armour re-formulation…If I keep on improving..I have hopes of regaining my old health status.

    Reply
  8. Margo Failing

    I had switched to Westhroid (heard good reports on its purity and they also are the makers of Naturthyroid) when I could not get Armour (this past Oct.) but was only able to get Westhroid for one month before it was impossible to find it in any pharmacy in my area. In searching around for it and/or Armour, I learned that Armour had changed the filler in their thyroid supplement, using maybe cellulous?? not really sure on that….. and also heard that it wasn’t as effective as it had been. Before October I thought I’d try Synthroid since it was getting so hard to get the natural and my insurance also covered it….but after 3 weeks, I started itching and got rashes so I quit it, saw my Dr. for a perscription for natural. That was when I did the month of Westhroid.

    I just now found a pharmacy that had stocked up on Armour and am getting mine from them, but I have had to up my dose. And my Dr. just said I needed an additional 1/2 grain due to my most recent blood test. Carolyn Hunter’s entry scairs me! I wish you continuing improvement of health, Carolyn.

    This issue is very frustrating. Many people in the area have gone on Synthroid due to the unavailibility of the natural thyroid. I am amazed at all the people who need supplementation and HAVE to have it.

    Thankyou, Lida for your suggestion of Canadian Armour…..I just now have looked back on this site and saw all the comments! I will keep in touch often now.

    Dr. Gary Pepper, what are you thinking about all this?

    Thankyou everyone and thankyou Dr. Pepper for starting this site.

    Reply
  9. Hal

    My mom is 93. She’s been taking Armour Thyroid since she was 18. Is this ruling from the death panels the giggling media has been talking about?

    Reply
    1. Dr. G. Pepper

      Hal

      Your Mom is an example of the safety and effectiveness of Armour Thyroid. Can’t grasp the meaning of your last sentence. Can you explain?

      Dr. Pepper

      Reply
  10. Tammy

    My daughter was diagnosed with Thyroiditis R/O – Acquired Hypothyroidism in 2007. At present she is taking a generic Levothyrosine 88 Mcg. In 2009 I mentioned to her dr. that she was very moody and her behavior at home had changed. He assured me that it had nothing to do with her thyroid condition. However; after doing some research, I noticed that the adverse reactions to the medicine she is taking includes irritability, fatigue & also relates to hyperactivity and attention deficit. I reference these specific known reactions because she has been diagnosed with a learning disability in school and has a hard time staying focused. She has an appointment with a new endocronologist in June. After finding your website and learning that there is a definite correlation to her moodiness/fatigue/lack of concentration; would it be your opinion that she would benefit to change to the Armour Thyroid medicine, if so; could you please advise what generic is accepted by medicaid (staywell-wellcare for kids) that would give the same benefits? My biggest concern is her academics and I wonder if the levothyroxine may actually accelerate her problems in retention when she was diagnosed with the learning disability in 2003. I appreciate your time and your opinion with regards to these two specific problems. Current drug and its effects and possible contributing factor to her learning disability.

    Reply
    1. Dr. G. Pepper

      Hi Tammy

      I am not a pediatrician but it would seem logical to me that children could be more susceptible than adults to signs and symptoms of thyroid hormone deficiency. The symptoms you describe in your daughter could represent many different issues including thyroid hormone related, but also could be within the normal variation of childhood. In adults Armour thyroid has impressed me with its ability to improve the types of symptoms that are most resistant to treatment, fatigue and mental “fogginess” being among these. I couldn’t guess what thyroid hormone preparations your medicaid program approves but the good news is that since the shortage has ended, Armour thyroid is freely available and not that expensive.

      Best of luck to you and your daughter.
      (These comments are for educational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or a medical relationship)

      Dr. G. Pepper

      Reply
  11. Janet

    I’ve been able to get Armour Thyroid covered by Part D up until last week. The last time I got it covered was 4/28/11. Now I’m checking Medicare.gov and it’s not listed anymore. They are going to end up losing money because people will have more health problems switching to another drug. I can’t pay for dental work, but I’m going to pay for Armour Thyroid.

    Reply
  12. Janet

    I just went to the drug store and paid for my Rx. The Pharmacist told me that the doctor could call and tell the insurance company that I could not take the other drug on the list and that way they should cover it. Also that he could back bill for about a week. I hope this works out for me.

    Reply
  13. sammi

    Thanks for telling people about the benefits of armour. My mother is gone now but I wish we had known about it. She had to switch from dessicated to synthroid when the dessicated was no longer offerred but did poorly with synthroid for the rest of her life. iEither t3 or t4 blood levels wout be abnormal- she could never get both to be normalat the same time no matter the dose and the unregulated thyroid made her sick every day. interestingly, when she first developed hypothyroidism in her early 50s 6 years after radioactive iodine for hyperthyroidism, they tried synthroid, she seemed to get worse, and a thyroid docat downstare med center in brooklyn said u need the natural, and switched her to dessicated. she did pretty good on that one. also interestingly, when she was on synthroid, an very old internrst tried an unusual approach tapezol along with the synthroid. i’m not sure which thyroid hormone tapezol supresses-but that seemed to help .if she couldn’t convert t4 to t3 i’m not sure why that would be of help. After that doctor died though, noone else would give a script for tapezol. and no doc ever suggested t3 by itself despite my mother’s contunually being sick. if it was now, u can be sure I would have gotten it for her, but 9+ years ago these kinds of web searches were not as successful . i’ve also always suspected that her development of other endocrine issues, including type 2 diabetes (even tho she was not fat) and the (probable) small cell carcinoma that killed her were due to a poorly controlled thyroid.

    Reply
  14. Sara

    Thank you for your informative site & great articles! I came across this one about Armour today after doing a Google search to find out why I couldn’t find it listed on the medicare site while inputting my meds. I’m fairly new to Armour and I’m so thankful that after having Hashimoto’s for 28 years I finally found a health care provider (a nurse practioner!) who listened and felt it was worth a try for me. I have struggled with the usual thyroid replacements for so long, even been on the maximum doses of Synthroid PLUS Cytomel and never been symptom free, yet even I didn’t realize how symptomatic I had been all this time until I tried the Armour (5 grains). I was diagnosed at age 20 but several doctors missed it even though I had a strong female family history of it and by the time it was caught I had an extremely high antibody titer (highest the dr had ever seen). I’m now 48 and have a cluster of other autoimmune conditions, including Multiple Sclerosis, “possible Lupus”, generalized weakened connective tissue condition, Lipedema, and others. I often wonder if the years of stress on my body from being misdiagnosed and severely under treated took a toll on me in other ways, who knows. All I know is I’ve been a mess and doctors blamed many of my worsening symptoms on the MS (& others) over the years, but I’m now feeling better than I have in years just since taking the Armour (about 3 months). I’m even feeling mentally clear enough to face going back to school at this ripening age, many productive years were unnecessarily wasted while being told there was nothing that could be done!

    My only concern is that I read that Armour reformulated their product and I’m wondering (since I have malabsorption problems and needed increases before) if the new form will affect how I absorb the Armour and since I’m at the high of 5 grains (300mg I think) have you ever seen higher doses if necessary? I’ve read that some people chew them up to get it to absorb better, is that okay to do? Thanks a bunch!

    Reply
    1. Dr. G. Pepper

      Sara

      Thanks for sharing your fascinating story with metabolism.com. I would reassure you that almost all my patients on Armour are pleased with the new formulation. I always leave room for individual variation so there are no guarantees. I am unimpressed with people reporting problems with the new formulation because I haven’t ever seen anyone in my own practice with the types of problems some internet writers have claimed. Absorption is good without chewing the pills but it is highly advised not tot take Armour within at least an hour or two of eating or with other medications to achieve good absorption.

      Dr. P.

      these comments are for educational purposes only. Ask your own doctor for help with your prescription meds.

      Reply
  15. Margo Failing

    I still take Armour and with my new Humana Rx Plan, that started Jan. 2011, it was covered! Amazed me when I first discovered it…..made me glad. So all this year
    I only had to pay the high tier amount. A couple months ago I received notification from Humana that they felt Armour could pose a threat to older folks health and to seek an alternative from my doctor (of course it’s always the synthetic which I had adverse affects when I tried it back when Armour was hard to get)…..their comment erked me but I didn’t do anything about it…Now I just received notice that Armour will not be covered by Medicare in 2012. This upsets me again…..it’s Medicare that causes the insurance plans to drop coverage so I will again get on the phone and complain….I’ve done it so many times and just get a run around.
    I was sorry to read, Sammi, about your Mother’s difficulties, and, you, Sara. Thanks, Dr. G. Pepper for believing in Armour and helping us with his knowledge.

    Reply
  16. Ronda

    For years I was taking the synthetic thyroid replacement meds. Until I read that some of them are lactose based. I am lactose intolerant. so happy I switched to Armour.

    Reply

Leave a Reply