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Life-changing thyroid drug taken off GP blacklist in Norfolk and Waveney

PUBLISHED: 17:37 20 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:37 20 February 2019

Flel photo of a GP writing a prescription. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Flel photo of a GP writing a prescription. Photo: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

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A thyroid drug which has been hailed as life-changing and has been at the centre of a fierce campaign for access will finally be available more easily in Norfolk and Waveney.

Liothyronine, a medicine used to treat some people with an under-active thyroid gland and sometimes known as T3, was approved for prescribing by the Joint Strategic Commissioning Committee of the five NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in Norfolk and Waveney on Tuesday.

Most patients who have an underactive thyroid can be prescribed Levothyroxine, or T4, which replaces the hormone thyroxine.

However it has been estimated by charity Thyroid UK that up to 15pc of those with thyroid problems did not respond to the standard treatment and instead needed T3.

But those who fought for the drug faced constant battles with GPs unable to prescribe it under NHS rules, and hospital consultants were also reluctant since prices for just one tablet shot up from 16p to £9.22 in recent years.

A typical patient would take one or two tablets a day. In 2012, the NHS paid £8m for T3 prescriptions. By 2016, almost the same number of prescriptions cost £32m.

And many patients were driven to ordering their tablets online from countries such as Germany and Thailand as GPs and hospitals battled over if prescriptions were available, who would pay for them.

Previously Norfolk campaigners were among those who presented a report to the Department of Health with what they said was evidence harm had been caused by patients not being prescribed T3, against official guidelines.

But now Norfolk and Waveney patients would be able to get an initial three-month prescription from a consultant before GPs being able to prescribe it after that.

A spokesman for Norfolk and Waveney’s CCGs said: “In Norfolk and Waveney, new patients who do not respond well to Levothyroxine must be referred to a hospital specialist who can initiate prescribing Liothyronine if they consider it is clinically necessary. Patients who have previously taken Liothyronine will need to be referred to hospital to have their individual circumstances reviewed by a specialist. The specialists will decide on the most appropriate course of treatment depending on their patient’s individual health.”

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