levothyroxine sodium, Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithroid, Tirosint, Levo-T

  • Pharmacy Author:
    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: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

What is levothyroxine sodium, and how does it work (mechanism of action)?

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.

What brand names are available for levothyroxine sodium?

Synthroid, Levoxyl, Levothroid, Unithroid, Tirosint, Levo-T (discontinued brand)

Is levothyroxine sodium available as a generic drug?

GENERIC AVAILABLE: Yes. Generic and branded tablets of levothyroxine may differ:

  • in the amount of levothyroxine they contain,
  • the absorption of the levothyroxine into the body, and
  • the distribution of levothyroxine throughout the body.

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.

Do I need a prescription for levothyroxine sodium?

Yes.

What are the side effects of levothyroxine sodium?

Levothyroxine therapy usually is well-tolerated. If symptoms occur, they often are due to toxic levels of thyroid hormone, and the symptoms are those of hyperthyroidism.

The most commonly reported side effects include:

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