Why Do I Get Free Prescriptions When on Levothyroxine?

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For those of us living in the UK and using the NHS, prescriptions are free to those in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but not in England. However, there are certain people in England who can access free NHS prescriptions for medication, if they fit certain criteria such as having hypothyroidism and being on Levothyroxine.

But why?

From digging around on the internet, there’s no real hardcore reason. I can only find forums of people discussing their theories as to why when we’re put on Levo, that we suddenly get unlimited free prescriptions for life. One patient has even got in touch saying that although she self-sources her own NDT medication, she is still allowed her entitlement to free prescriptions.

This was some useful reading – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/213884/dh_116367.pdf

The main recurring reason bouncing around the internet is that because it is well known that if you have hypothyroidism, that you’ll be taking the medication for it for life, and that it’s also well recognised that people often develop many other conditions when they have hypothyroidism, the free prescriptions help with this burden.

And this annoys me.

You develop other health conditions/symptoms/problems from inadequate thyroid treatment. Not from the hypothyroidism itself. It could be possible that having hypothyroidism increases your chances of developing other conditions, but there’s no big research on this that I can find.

It says here:  “As now, exemption should be for the person rather than restricted to the treatment of the condition for which he/she is exempt Currently, patients who are exempt from prescriptions on medical grounds, receive all of their prescriptions free and not just the drugs that relate to the condition for which they are exempt. This is often regarded as unfair. However, it is frequently difficult to determine whether the patient’s current need for treatment is related or not to the index condition, or might exacerbate it. In the interests of practicality, exemption from charges on medical grounds should continue to relate to the person rather than the condition.”

So  it’s saying that because it’s a lifelong condition, that can be linked to others,  we get all meds for free for ease of not being completely sure which other conditions can be related back to it. The issue of people on lifelong medication, not being able to afford it, has been in the media several times, so this sounds good in theory.

But take for instance all the extra conditions/symptoms I developed while on the wrong medication for my hypothyroidism:

  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Depression
  • GERD/Severe Acid Reflux
  • Eczema and Dermatitis
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Debilitating Hormonal Migraines
  • Leg Cramps and Spasms
  • Restless Legs
  • Brain Fog
  • Menorrhagia
  • Stiff and Painful Joints etc.

All from an inadequately treated underactive thyroid/hypothyroidism. Some I developed in the years leading up to my official diagnosis, and others developed after it and when put on Levo, which wasn’t the right medicine for me.

While it was great that I got the medication for all of the above ‘separate’ conditions for free, I’d have preferred for them to just get my thyroid meds right in the first place, and then I wouldn’t have needed all of them. And it would have possibly saved the NHS more money.. Instead of covering up more and more problems and just treating multiplying issues. The initial cause, of low thyroid hormone levels, should have been addressed from the beginning. I had hypothyroidism/developing hypothyroidism and needed Natural desiccated Thyroid to fix this.

It’s funny that when I switched from Levothyroxine to NDT, all of those ‘separate’ conditions magically went and now all I take is my NDT daily, with some Vitamin D, K and B supplements (and some other supplements).

Another theory is that it’s simply outdated and has never been reviewed. Take the information on this link for example – https://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/1126.aspx
it refers to hypothyroidism as myxoedema, a term used to describe severe hypothyroidism, often when it’s so developed, that patients have swelling of the skin and underlying tissue. It can also lead to coma, and death.

So our condition, untreated, could possibly kill us. If we go into a myxodemic coma due to the lack of thyroid hormones, we could die. It’s also apparently not unusual for someone with hypothyroidism to die ‘young’. I say ‘apparently’ as I have no idea how accurate any of this information is really. That’s the sad thing. Finding hard evidence is impossible.These are just ideas thrown out there by people on internet discussion forums.

Most patients don’t reach this stage (myxodemic coma) before diagnosis of course, but they did a hundred or so years ago. Various books such as STTM and the book The Great Thyroid Scandal by Durrant-Peatfield cover it.

Patients were described as having puffy faces, with myxoedema, and once started on natural desiccated thyroid, it went away, along with their other symptoms of hypothyroidism. There are some good before and after pics here. The condition was hugely referred to as myxoedema at this time and so the use of this name on the NHS exemption list makes you question how old this information was and when it was last reviewed. Maybe it shouldn’t be on there at all. It was probably once a not well-known about condition and people were known to die from it, left untreated for long enough.

Still, for those who do do well on Levothyroxine, and have their medical exemption certificate, it’s great for them. To have free medication for life for a chronic, life-long, difficult condition, is a godsend. It just makes you wonder why other life-long conditions such as asthma, for example, aren’t on it. Asthma could kill you if left untreated, and it’s not exactly self-inflicted. Maybe it’s because they think you could recover or ‘grow out’ of Asthma – maybe it’s not considered lifelong in such a cut and dry way as hypothyroidism.

Who knows!

Do you get free prescriptions for your overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid? Leave a comment below!

You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more reading and references can also be found at:



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Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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Rachel Hill, Thyroid Patient Advocate, blogger and author, has Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites and has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and also contributed the foreword to Emily Kyle’s The 30-Minute Thyroid Cookbook.

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