Levothyroxine may not be the right choice for every patient. In such cases, it is important to discuss with a medical provider potential levothyroxine alternatives.
Several options exist when it comes to finding alternatives for levothyroxine.
For Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)
Radioactive iodine is considered a widely recommended, long-term treatment for hyperthyroidism, which is the opposite of hypothyroidism. Radioactive iodine destroys overactive thyroid cells that are producing too many thyroid hormones. Other cells and tissues in the body don’t absorb iodine, so there is a low risk of side effects and radiation exposure elsewhere.
Sometimes, treating hyperthyroidism with radioactive iodine, antithyroid drugs, or even surgery may swing the pendulum the other way and lead to hypothyroidism. In these cases, treatment with levothyroxine may be necessary.
For Weight Loss
Levothyroxine should never be used to treat obesity or promote weight loss due to the risk of adverse effects. For people with obesity or weight-related problems, lifestyle changes including exercise and diet are effective. Healthy lifestyle changes may also be enhanced through the addition of certain medications that can promote weight loss.
Some FDA-approved drugs for the treatment of overweight and obesity include:
- Xenical (orlistat)
- Belviq (lorcaserin)
- Qsymia (phentermine/topiramate)
- Saxenda, also known as Victoza (liraglutide)
Some medications from the drug class amphetamines, including benzphetamine (Regimex), may also be prescribed in the short-term to promote weight loss. However, these drugs should never be taken along with levothyroxine due to the risk of adverse effects.
For Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
If a person is unable to take levothyroxine to treat their underactive thyroid, their medical provider may recommend other types of thyroid hormones. One alternative is known as Armour Thyroid, which is a natural type of thyroid replacement hormone made from the thyroid glands of animals. Armour Thyroid may be preferable if a person is allergic to ingredients found in synthetic levothyroxine.
For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
The standard treatment for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is levothyroxine, however alternative drugs such as Armour Thyroid and liothyronine are available. Liothyronine (Cytomel) may be more potent than levothyroxine and therefore may be a better option for people with severe Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, although research on this is still inconclusive.