The History of Thyroid Treatment

This is a story I have never forgotten and I think it’s because it has helped me see that many Doctors have been pioneers and though all take the oath to ‘do no harm’, it is because of the system in which they work that so many people are not well, despite treatment.

In 1877 a great Doctor called William Ord performed post mortems on his patients that he had failed to cure due to something going wrong with their thyroid glands. Once he took a look at their thyroid glands he saw that they were scarred, fibrous and shrunken, and he termed the end stage of this cause of death as myxoedema. In each case their slow deaths started with general fatigue, weight gain, coldness, hair loss, bloating, extreme constipation, foggy thinking, depression and muscle and joint stiffness. Some of them slipped into a coma and some of them went mad.

He must have had an ‘aha’ moment in 1898 when he decided to grind down a pig’s thyroid gland and give it to his last two patients who were suffering with all the above symptoms and were institutionalised for madness – after all what did he have to lose? Within 3 weeks they were CURED and released back into their communities & lives.

Over the next few years researchers worked out how to dry (dessicate) the pigs’ thyroids and put it in tablet form. This dessicated thyroid is widely used in the USA and to some degree in the UK, today. Perhaps it worked so well because the content of the pigs’ thyroid contains almost exactly what ours does – T4, T3, T2 & T1

Up until the mid 1980’s this was the standard medical treatment in the UK as well as the USA. Then a drugs manufacturer produced a synthetic form of thyroxine and all Doctors in the UK were forced to stop prescribing Natural Dessicated Thyroid or NDT, and would be struck off by the General Medical Council. Including my mentor and idol Dr Barry-Durrant Peatfield.

Sadly, the synthetic form now being mass produced known as Levothyroxine is the second biggest prescribed drug in this country, behind statins. So is that a problem? It is if it doesn’t work – and that is something I see every day in clinic and in support groups Nationwide.