'Hundreds' more claim thyroid drug side-effects

01:43, Jan 31 2009

A Gore woman, who sounded alarm bells over changes to the Government-funded thyroid drug Eltroxin, has been overwhelmed by calls from people throughout the country who have also suffered side-effects.

Lyn said yesterday increased awareness about problems with the GlaxoSmithKline-manufactured drug was great, but she was worried about where to turn to next to help people.

Her phone has been running red hot after a report in The Southland Times and her telephone number was broadcast on talkback radio.

While she had suspected she was not the only person to suffer side-effects from the new-formula Eltroxin, she said she had been taken back by the extent of the problem.

"I've had hundreds of replies, it's a real scandal." Many people on Eltroxin had suffered side-effects similar to hers.

Sore, itchy eyes was the most common complaint, she said.

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Medsafe said yesterday it had received 13 reports since 2006 of people having problems associated with the switch-over to the new formulation.

These included possible loss of effect, difficulty in maintaining control of their underactive thyroid and reports of side-effects, the agency said.

Lyn said she had been on Eltroxin for more than 30 years without a problem, until GlaxoSmithKline changed the formulation.

When she went off its drug and on to one manufactured by Goldshield Pharmaceuticals, she was back to her old self within two weeks.

However, she has to pay about $140 a year for the non-subsidised drug.

Lyn said she was shocked that most patients had not been told of the change in formulation.

Goldshield's Eltroxin contains the same four base ingredients as the old GlaxoSmithKline formula, with the addition of sodium citrate and purified water.

GlaxoSmithKline confirmed last week the formulation change and that manufacture of the drug had moved from Canada to Germany.

However, the active ingredient levothyroxine, the new name for thyroxine, had remained the same, it said.

Medsafe has been monitoring the situation. Interim manager Dr Stewart Jessamine said reports of problems had been reviewed and more information was being collected to determine if the problems were due to issues with the manufacture of the medicine, with prescribers and patients adapting to the new dose instructions or with some other aspect of the formulation of Eltroxin.

While the new formulation was approved as safe and effective by Medsafe, prescribers, pharmacists and patients needed to bear in mind that the revised formulation had a different dosing regime, Dr Jessamine said. This meant that patients taking it should be monitored by a health professional.

Doctors and pharmacists were encouraged to report any side- effects, including problems with maintaining adequate control of hypothyroidism, to the New Zealand Pharmacovigilance Centre at the University of Otago, Dr Jessamine said.

 

The Southland Times