Regulatory Actions Related to the Use
of Desiccated Thyroid

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

Desiccated thyroid extract, made from dried animal glands, was the most common form of treatment for hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels) before the individual thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) were discovered and became commercially available. During the 1960s, science-based physicians stopped using it because its potency can vary from batch to batch, which would make it harder to optimize the patient's thyroid hormone levels.

Practitioners who prescribe desiccated thyroid typically diagnose "hypothyroidism" (underactive thyroid gland) in people with normal thyroid function. Many of these doctor base their diagnosis on "low" temperature readings determined by placing the thermometer under the armpit. This is not a valid test of thyroid function. Proper diagnosis requires blood tests that measure thyroid hormone levels. Because synthetic hormones are more reliable, the prescription of desiccated thyroid is usually a sign of poor judgment. Even worse, from what I have seen, many practitioners who prescribe it are prone to misdiagnose and overtreat patients in other ways. Most are medical doctors, but some chiropractors, naturopaths, unlicensed "nutrition counselors," and even a few dentists prescribe it. Here is an list of regulatory actions associated with its use.




This article was revised on November 15, 2018.

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