How does this medication work? What will it do for me?

Desiccated thyroid is used to replace thyroid hormone for people whose thyroid glands do not make sufficient amounts (hypothyroidism). Thyroid hormone is necessary for increasing the metabolic rate of body tissues.

Desiccated thyroid is used to treat hypothyroidism (low blood levels of thyroid hormone) and myxedema (the body's changes associated with prolonged low blood levels of thyroid hormone).

Your doctor may have suggested this medication for conditions other than those listed in these drug information articles. As well, some forms of this medication may not be used for all of the conditions discussed here. If you have not discussed this with your doctor or are not sure why you are taking this medication, speak to your doctor. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor.

Do not give this medication to anyone else, even if they have the same symptoms as you do. It can be harmful for people to take this medication if their doctor has not prescribed it.

What form(s) does this medication come in?

30 mg
Each tan-coloured tablet, embossed "ECI 30" on one side contains 30 mg desiccated thyroid derived from porcine thyroid glands. Nonmedicinal ingredients: cornstarch, magnesium stearate, sugar, and talc. Energy: 1.2 kJ (0.28 kcal). Gluten-, paraben-, sodium-, sulfite-, and tartrazine-free.

60 mg
Each tan-coloured tablet, embossed "ECI 60" on one side contains 60 mg desiccated thyroid derived from porcine thyroid glands. Nonmedicinal ingredients: cornstarch, magnesium stearate, sugar, and talc. Energy: 1.1 kJ (0.26 kcal). Gluten-, paraben-, sodium-, sulfite-, and tartrazine-free.

125 mg
Each tan-coloured tablet, embossed "ECI 125" on one side contains 125 mg desiccated thyroid derived from porcine thyroid glands. Nonmedicinal ingredients: cornstarch, magnesium stearate, sugar, and talc. Energy: 2.2 kJ (0.52 kcal). Gluten-, paraben-, sodium-, sulfite-, and tartrazine-free.

How should I use this medication?

The usual starting dose of desiccated thyroid for adults to treat hypothyroidism is 60 mg daily.

The usual starting dose to treat myxedema for adults is 30 mg daily.

Your doctor will order blood tests to be done 4 to 6 weeks after starting desiccated thyroid to determine the amount of thyroid hormone in your blood. Based on the results of these tests, the doctor may increase your dose until the required response occurs.

Many things can affect the dose of a medication that a person needs, such as body weight, other medical conditions, and other medications. If your doctor has recommended a dose different from the ones listed here, do not change the way that you are taking the medication without consulting your doctor.

Desiccated thyroid should be taken once daily at the same time each day (usually in the morning before breakfast).

Desiccated thyroid must be taken on a daily basis to be effective. This medication may take several weeks to have a noticeable effect on your condition. Replacement thyroid hormone therapy usually needs to be taken for life.

It is important to take this medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor. If you miss a dose, take it as soon as possible and continue with your regular schedule. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and continue with your regular dosing schedule. Do not take a double dose to make up for a missed one. If you are not sure what to do after missing a dose, contact your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

Store the medication at room temperature and keep it out of reach of children.

Do not dispose of medications in wastewater (e.g. down the sink or in the toilet) or in household garbage. Ask your pharmacist how to dispose of medications that are no longer needed or have expired.

Who should NOT take this medication?

Desiccated thyroid should not be taken by anyone who:

  • has an allergy to thyroid or to any of the ingredients of the medication (there are currently no known cases of allergy to desiccated thyroid itself)
  • has certain uncorrected problems of the adrenal glands
  • has untreated thyrotoxicosis (too much thyroid hormone in the blood)

What side effects are possible with this medication?

Many medications can cause side effects. A side effect is an unwanted response to a medication when it is taken in normal doses. Side effects can be mild or severe, temporary or permanent. The side effects listed below are not experienced by everyone who takes this medication. If you are concerned about side effects, discuss the risks and benefits of this medication with your doctor.

The following side effects have been reported by at least 1% of people taking this medication. Many of these side effects can be managed, and some may go away on their own over time.

Contact your doctor if you experience these side effects and they are severe or bothersome. Your pharmacist may be able to advise you on managing side effects.

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • headache
  • heat intolerance
  • sleep difficulties
  • sweating
  • weight loss

Although most of these side effects listed below don't happen very often, they could lead to serious problems if you do not check with your doctor or seek medical attention.

Check with your doctor as soon as possible if any of the following side effects occur:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • feeling faint
  • mood swings
  • muscle weakness
  • nervousness
  • psychosis
  • restlessness (extreme)
  • tremors

Stop taking the medication and seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • chest pain
  • signs of heart attack (e.g., chest pain, or pressure or squeezing sensation in the chest; anxiety; paleness; shortness of breath; pain spreading to shoulders, neck, and jaw)

Some people may experience side effects other than those listed. Check with your doctor if you notice any symptom that worries you while you are taking this medication.

Are there any other precautions or warnings for this medication?

Before you begin using a medication, be sure to inform your doctor of any medical conditions or allergies you may have, any medications you are taking, whether you are pregnant or breast-feeding, and any other significant facts about your health. These factors may affect how you should use this medication.

Diabetes: Desiccated thyroid may cause blood sugar to increase. Therefore, high blood sugar may occur, glucose tolerance may change, and diabetes may worsen. People with diabetes should monitor their blood sugar closely and talk to their doctor about any abnormalities.

Hair loss in children: Some children may lose some of their hair in the first few months of treatment with thyroid hormone. This is usually a temporary effect and the hair normally grows back over time.

Heart disease: Starting desiccated thyroid may cause the heart to work harder than it has been used to. For this reason, people with angina or other heart disease should discuss with their doctor how this medication may affect their medical condition, how their medical condition may affect the dosing and effectiveness of this medication, and whether any special monitoring is needed.

Pregnancy: Supplemental thyroid hormone is safe to use during pregnancy.

Breast-feeding: Minimal amounts of thyroid hormone pass into breast milk. Inform your doctor if you are breast-feeding or intending to breast-feed while using this medication.

What other drugs could interact with this medication?

There may be an interaction between desiccated thyroid and any of the following:

  • amphetamines
  • antacids that contain aluminum or calcium
  • birth control pills
  • calcium polystyrene
  • calcium supplements (e.g., calcium carbonate, calcium citrate)
  • carbamazepine
  • cholestyramine
  • colestipol
  • diabetes medications (e.g., insulin, glyburide, metformin)
  • diet pills
  • digoxin
  • estrogens
  • iron supplements (e.g., ferrous fumarate, ferrous sulphate)
  • ketamine
  • phenytoin
  • rifampin
  • sodium iodide I 131
  • sodium polystyrene
  • sympathomeimetic medications (e.g., epinephrine, norepinephrine)
  • theophyllines (e.g., aminophylline, oxtriphylline, theophylline)
  • tricyclic antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline, desipramine)
  • warfarin

If you are taking any of these medications, speak with your doctor or pharmacist. Depending on your specific circumstances, your doctor may want you to:

  • stop taking one of the medications,
  • change one of the medications to another,
  • change how you are taking one or both of the medications, or
  • leave everything as is.

An interaction between two medications does not always mean that you must stop taking one of them. Speak to your doctor about how any drug interactions are being managed or should be managed.

Medications other than those listed above may interact with this medication. Tell your doctor or prescriber about all prescription, over-the-counter (non-prescription), and herbal medications you are taking. Also tell them about any supplements you take. Since caffeine, alcohol, the nicotine from cigarettes, or street drugs can affect the action of many medications, you should let your prescriber know if you use them.

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