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.