The NHS is planning to stop prescribing a life-changing pill after its manufacturer raised the price by more than 5,000 per cent.
Liothyronine, used to treat patients with an underactive thyroid, has soared from 16p per tablet to £9.22 – an increase of 5,662 per cent.
The medicine, a synthetic version of the hormone T3, is relied on by sufferers who do not respond well to the cheaper alternative levothyroxine which is the standard treatment.
Because there is only one supplier of the drug, it means thousands of patients could be forced to travel to Europe to buy liothyronine, where a packet costs just a few euros.
The Times reported that the NHS says that the drug, a synthetic version of the hormone T3, is ‘clinically effective but … has been subject to excessive price inflation’.
According to the paper, some health trusts have already stopped funding it, even though consultation on the price increase has only just ended.
Hypothyroidism affects 15 in every 1,000 women and one in 1,000 men in the UK.
Around one in 3,500-4,000 babies are born with an underactive thyroid.
NHS figures show liothyronine was prescribed to 13,000 patients last year.
The cost of prescribing the medicine to the NHS has risen from £3.7 million a year in 2011 to £30.6 million last year.
Lyn Mynott, chief executive of Thyroid UK, told The Times she had been inundated with phone calls from worried patients.
‘I think it’s going to be devastating for some,’ she said.
‘They are afraid they are going to be stopped and are expecting to become ill again.’
The price hike was brought in by Concordia International and a company that it bought.
Concordia has previously been exposed by an investigation in The Times for imposing big price rises for medicines.
A spokeswoman for Concordia International has previously defended the pricing, saying that the medicine was ‘incredibly difficult to manufacture’.
WHAT IS HYPTHYROIDISM?
An underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) is where your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones.
Common signs of an underactive thyroid are tiredness, weight gain and feeling depressed.
An underactive thyroid can often be successfully treated by taking daily hormone tablets to replace the hormones your thyroid isn’t making.
There’s no way of preventing an underactive thyroid. Most cases are caused either by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland and damaging it, or by damage to the thyroid that occurs during some treatments for an overactive thyroid or thyroid cancer.
Source: NHS Choices