New treatment option for Australia’s most common thyroid disorder now available

One in 33 Australians living with hypothyroidism now have access to a new treatment option with the listing of Levoxine® (levothyroxine sodium) on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland, located near the base of the throat, produces insufficient amounts of the hormone, thyroxine. The thyroid gland is responsible for secreting hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic processes, including growth and energy expenditure.

Affecting 780,000 Australians, hypothyroidism is the nation’s most common thyroid disorder. The condition affects up to 10 times more women than men and is more common in Australians aged 60 years and over.

Many symptoms of hypothyroidism are not specific to the condition, and can therefore, go unnoticed, or be difficult to identify early. The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, intolerance to the cold, unexplained weight gain, constipation, change in voice, and dry and flaky skin.

Leading endocrine experts are warning hypothyroidism cannot be effectively treated and managed with a one-size-fits-all approach. The new PBS listing offers an additional treatment option to those living with this condition, that if left unmanaged can be life-altering, and debilitating.

Ross, 41, New dad and high-tech industry worker, SYDNEY

New dad, and high-tech industry worker, Ross 41, Sydney, experienced an array of symptoms, including extreme fatigue and lethargy, depressed mood, heightened anxiety, weight fluctuations, insomnia, new food intolerances, heightened allergies, brittle hair and hair loss, puffiness around the face, brain fog and digestive issues, before being diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2017.

“The symptoms never appeared all at once. Instead, they occurred gradually, and over a long period of time.

“Some days I struggled to walk from the ouch to the kitchen. Other days, I experienced really bad brain fog which affected my concentration and ability to work. That’s when my anxiety started to creep in,” Ross said.

Ross admits to initially found it hard to accept his diagnosis, and to turned a blind eye to his condition after he was first told he had hypothyroidism.

However, once he accepted his diagnosis and started to consistently be aware of his health and condition his quality of life improved significantly.

“I manage my hypothyroidism now through consistency. I take my medication at the same time each morning without fail.

“I also implemented various lifestyle changes. I quit smoking, exercised regularly, and began to follow an elimination diet, whereby I omitted inflammatory foods that were thought to be contributing to my food intolerances,” Ross said.  

Ross understands, the importance of patients having access to a variety of different treatment options, as he himself tried several medications before finding the right one.

Leigh, 49, Mum-to-three and author, GOLD COAST

Mum-to-three and author, Leigh 49, Gold Coast was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 1996 after giving birth to her first child.

Like Ross, Leigh was experiencing brain fog, fatigue, brittle hair, skin and nails, as well as weight gain and a low mood. At the time however, she mistakenly attributed these symptoms to the stress of being a new mom.

“It wasn’t until my baby was four months old, when I felt a massive lump at the front of my neck, and subsequently visited my GP, that a blood test revealed my symptoms weren’t from the stress of being a new mum, but my thyroid wasn’t producing any thyroxine,” Leigh said.  

Leigh admits it took her a few years to learn how to effectively manage this disorder.

“It was not until about a decade ago, when I finally chose to start making dietary changes, such as eliminating gluten and lactose, and started to exercise regularly, that the quality of my life improved significantly,” said Leigh.

She also found that the limited options available, made taking her medication and managing her hypothyroidism, even more challenging.

Today, Leigh manages her hypothyroidism by taking her medication daily, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

She appreciates the availability of new treatment options being listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), to provide patients with much-needed choice, given as experts have recently advised treatment for hypothyroidism is not one-size-fits-all.

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