levothyroxine sodium, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithroid, Tirosint, Levo-T
Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD
Omudhome Ogbru, PharmD
Dr. Ogbru received his Doctorate in Pharmacy from the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 1995. He completed a Pharmacy Practice Residency at the University of Arizona/University Medical Center in 1996. He was a Professor of Pharmacy Practice and a Regional Clerkship Coordinator for the University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy from 1996-99.
Medical and Pharmacy Editor:
GENERIC NAME: levothyroxine sodium
BRAND NAME: Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithroid, Tirosint, Levo-T
DRUG CLASS AND MECHANISM: Levothyroxine is a synthetic (man-made) version of the principle thyroid hormone, thyroxine (T4) that is made and released by the thyroid gland. Thyroid hormone increases the metabolic rate of cells of all tissues in the body. In the fetus and newborn, thyroid hormone is important for the growth and development of all tissues including bones and the brain. In adults, thyroid hormone helps to maintain brain function, utilization of food, and body temperature, among other effects.
GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes. Generic and branded tablets of levothyroxine may differ:
This means that ingestion of 1 mg of generic levothyroxine may not have the same effect on the body as 1 mg of another generic or branded levothyroxine. Practically speaking, this means that when changing between levothyroxine manufactured by different pharmaceutical companies, a change in dose may be necessary to maintain the desired effect or to prevent toxicity. When switching between brands or generics, it is important to ensure that both preparations are equivalent or to check blood thyroid levels weekly.
STORAGE: Levothyroxine tablets, capsules, and dry powder should be kept at room temperature, 15 C to 30 C (59 F to 86 F) in a light-resistant, tight container.
Powdered levothyroxine for intravenous injection should be used immediately once mixed with liquid.
PRESCRIBED FOR: Levothyroxine is approved to treat hypothyroidism to suppress thyroid hormone release from cancerous thyroid nodules, and to prevent growth of goiters. In addition, Synthroid, Levoxyl and Levothyroid also are prescribed with anti-thyroid drugs, for example methimazole (Tapazole), to manage thyrotoxicosis (high thyroid hormone levels due to over-activity of the thyroid gland). Thyrotoxicosis may result in the growth of goiters and/or result in hypothyroidism.
DOSING: For adult hypothyroidism, levothyroxine is started at 12.5-125 mcg/day administered orally. Starting doses and dose changes may differ with individual patients based upon age, the presence of cardiovascular disease, the development of tolerance (reduced effectiveness with continued use), side effects to the medication, and blood levels of thyroid hormone. It may take one to three weeks after initiating therapy with levothyroxine or changing the dose before effects are seen. The goal of replacement therapy is to maintain a normal blood thyroxine level.
DRUG INTERACTIONS: Initiation or discontinuation of therapy with levothyroxine in diabetic patients may create a need for an increase or decrease in the required dose of insulin and/or antidiabetic drug, (for example, glyburide [Micronase]).
Levothyroxine may increase the effect of blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin). Therefore, monitoring of blood clotting is necessary, and a decrease in the dose of warfarin may be necessary.
Intravenous administration of epinephrine to patients with coronary artery disease may lead to complications ranging from difficulty in breathing to a heart attack. These complications may occur more frequently among patients also taking levothyroxine. Therefore, careful observation is needed when intravenous epinephrine is given to patients receiving levothyroxine who also have coronary artery disease.
Converting a state of hypothyroidism (under activity) to a normal state (euthyroid state) with levothyroxine may decrease the actions of certain beta-blocking drugs, (for example, metoprolol [Lopressor] or propranolol [Inderal]). It may be necessary, therefore, to change the dose of beta-blocker. For the same reason, the dose of digoxin (Lanoxin), a drug used to manage heart failure or an irregular heart rhythm (for example, atrial fibrillation), also may need to be changed.
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