Natural Desiccated Thyroid Prices Rise After Pig Virus

Millions of pigs have died as a result of a viral epidemic in the US.

In 2013-2014, an epidemic of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus -- also known as PEDv -- wiped out as many as 8 million pigs in the U.S. According to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), the virus killed as many as 10 percent of the country's pig population, driving up prices for pork products, including natural dessicated thyroid, a treatment for various forms of thyroid disease. 

The virus only affects young piglets, and is not transmitted to humans, so pork products are not unsafe to eat, and cooking/heating kills the virus. However, while this means that the safety of natural dessicated thyrroid, which is made from porcine thyroid is not affected by the virus, the drug is affected by the laws of supply and demand.

During the epidemic, consumers paid nearly 13 percent more for pork products in June 2014 than they did a year earlier. This adds to the trend of already higher pork prices already in existence before the virus struck, due to drought and high prices for animal feed.

It is no surprise that the epidemic affected thyroid patients who reported dramatic price increases in the cost of Armour Thyroid, a brand of natural desiccated thyroid. It has been speculated that the price increase may be due to the sale of Armour's manufacturer, Forest Labs, to Actavis. That deal, however, was only announced in February of 2014, and was approved in June of 2014 so the deal is still in progress.

In 2009, there was a severe shortage of natural desiccated thyroid drugs, and some brands were unavailable for the better part of a year. 

About Natural Desiccated Thyroid

Natural desiccated thyroid - also known as porcine thyroid, desiccated thyroid extract, or sometimes as "natural thyroid" or "pig thyroid" -- is a prescription drug used to treat hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland of pigs is dried -- desiccated -- and manufactured into pills.

The drugs in this category include Armour Thyroid, Nature-throid, WP Thyroid, and Erfa Thyroid, and a generic natural desiccated thyroid is produced in the U.S. by Acella.

Natural desiccated thyroid has been in use for more than a century. Some integrative hormone experts believe that these drugs, which provide T4, T3, T2, T1, and other thyroid hormones and nutritional elements, more closely resemble human thyroid hormone than the synthetic drugs such as levothyroxine (synthetic T4) and liothyronine (synthetic T3), and report that their patients feel better on them. Some patients find that they feel best on natural thyroid drugs, or on synthetic drugs plus some natural thyroid.

Drawbacks of Natural Dessicated Thyroid

However, in addition to being vulnerable to the market conditions affecting pork, many physicians won't prescribe natural dessicated thyroid and instead prefer synthetic thyroid hormones for a variety of reasons, including: 

  • Lack of purification of animal thyroid extracts, which means they can contain substances not naturally found in humans. 
  • Varying amounts of T4 and T3 in animal thyroid pills, making them a less precise treatment option and making it more difficult to find the correct dosage. 
  • Different balances of hormones in animals compared to humans, contradicting the argument that animal thyroid hormones are the natural option for humans.

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