Over 500 complain of side-effects from drug

Over 500 people have complained of side effects from the reformulation of a commonly used drug, prompting calls for alternatives to be made available.

In June health authorities announced they were urgently investigating problems with Eltroxin, a hyporthyroidism drug taken by 70,000 New Zealanders.

Their action followed a rash of reports of nausea, headaches and weight gain, since the drug was reformulated by manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) over a year ago.

At the time, Medsafe head Stewart Jessamine said the drug had been dispensed since July last year and the same reformulation had been used in Germany for 18 months without problems.

Medsafe was considering the possibility there was a problem with the current batch of the drug available in New Zealand.

As a result of the complaints instructions on how the drug should be taken had changed.

But Green Party health spokeswoman Sue Kedgley said answers to written parliamentary questions showed 571 New Zealanders had reported problems with the drug to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring so far this year.

On that basis Medsafe should tell GSK the new formulation was not acceptable and seek an alternative drug, she said.

A Health Ministry spokesman said testing had shown no problems with one batch of the drug and Medsafe were awaiting final results from testing of a second batch.

He said bringing in an alternative drug was complicated as a manufacturer had to first want to sell its drug on New Zealand's small market.

Drug subsidy agency Pharmac had carried out some preliminary discussions with alternative suppliers, but with no immediate success.

If a supplier was keen it would then have to put its drug forward for registration.

Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, leading to fatigue and in some cases depression.

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174 Comments & Questions

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I have been a user of thyroxine for 10years with no problems until the change and i have had terrible side effects i have now changed to another medication and side effects have gone.

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In the last few months I have been having headaches and some depression and not knowing why......can it be that my prescription has been changed to levothyroxine. Can you tell me please which medication you are now taking? I would really appreciate your response.

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I have been treated for hypothyroidism for 9 years. The first five years with Thyroxine. On commencement of treatment I noticed a rapid improvement in my health. I was wrapped to have gotten my health back on track.
In 2004 I moved to another town and my new GP continued to prescribe Thyroxine however after about 6 months I began to feel unwell again, my thyroid disease (Hypothyroidism) appeared to have returned with full force. I discussed my symptoms on many occasions with my new GP who I felt thought I was psychosomatic. I was given antidepressents and sleeping pills to assist me getting to sleep at night. In late 2007 I became so fed up with constantly being sick ( at times I thought I would rather pass on than continue to live the way that I was feeling).
I asked my GP to refer me to an endocrynologist to assist me in solving the problem once and for all. The specialist altered my dosage of thryoxine and sent me for several very expensive tests ($1000) later it was discovered that there was nothing wrong with me other than I had moderate sleep aponea. There goes another $2000 for a CPAP machine. I still have not had a follow up blood test for TS3 / TS4 ordered by the specialist despite it now being September 2008.
When I went to my pharmacy in January 2008 to uplift my three month repeat of thyroxine I noticed that the label on my bottles had changed to Levothyroxine (ELT) I questioned the pharmacist about the change in my drugs and was told that the drug was EXACTLY the same one I had been on for years but that the name had changed in September 2006 from Eltroxin to Levothyroxine. I said that my bottles still up to that time had showed Thyroxine and I was told that Pharmacies had been told in late 2008 that they now had to to label the pills Levothyroxine. To my horror I was told when I enquired at my pharmacy today that I had in fact been taking Eltroxine since January 2005 and possibly for several months prior to that. I was told Levothyroxine and Eltroxin were one and the same drug. I have yet to enquire with the pharmacy / GP in my old town exactly when I was put on this new drug - I suspect from the deterioration in my health that it could have been late in 2004.
Good luck in your quest to sort your health out - I feel for you as I know how wretched I am feeling.

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i have been taking a tablet which changed itsname to eltroxin last year which i didnt know about at the time and i have had more headaches and felt sick and gained weight since taking them. I have just generally felt yuk and tired and not my usual self at all. What is it you can chang to for hypothyroidism or even something herbal i was thinking of. I am due to go doc next week as i amrunning out of tabs so anything on this would be appreciated thanks

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Hi Tania - what have you changed to. I am also suffering side effects from Levothyroxine after 30 years of Thyroxine without incident..

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Once changed to levothroxine ELT my hot flushes returned with a difference, just before the flush started I felt like my body was completely shuting down, very frightening. Was about to fly to the States so went to my doctor for a check up, she changed my medication and have not had a flush since.
I wish I had of realized it might of been the levothroxine in the first place.

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I was on thyroxin for years with very few side effects I have been changes to this new medication and have since had bloating of the stomack sever constipation/and alternate diarea swollen anles tingling in the hands terrible cramp in the hands feet and legs, shortness of breath, dizzy spells, over heated feeling that makes me break out in a sweat, tiredness, palpitations. I feel irratable at the littlest of things. and now I am getting pains in the stomach. All this has started two weeks after starting on levothyroxin and I cannot get myself heard by my doctor what are my options?? I feel this drug is killing me slowly yet all that has been changed for me is the brand name of the Levothyroxin I am desperate for help

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It was not until I saw this comment and read the side-effects in Google that I feel compelled to add my findings.
I have been on the drug, since February 2009 and have been wondering why I feel nauseous in the mornings (I take it on rising) - my G.P has me on 2x every other day and 1x on the other day,as my thyroxine levels are so low.
Have tried Kelp to no effect - anyone got an alternative??

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I've changed to another brand of thyroxin and the skin rashes have gone. Wondering what medication have you change to. Did you mean it is not thyroxin?

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I have changed back to the old brand just five weeks ago- after 16 months of misery and I am noticing a difference, mostly with clarity of thought and reduced insomnia. I am really interested to hear how long it has taken other people to make a full recovery and how long it took to drop any weight gain caused by the glaxo brand drug.
I am very angry that I had been told by my pharmacist and GP that the drug was the same and that none of my concerns or health issues were ever attributed to this change, I am eternally in debt to the nutritionist who advised me to change the drug- somehow all the media coverage passed me by and I had no idea others were experiencing problems. Thanks to everyone who has posted on here, I felt like I wasn't going crazy for the first time in months when I realized this was happening to other people too!

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My mother has been sick since october last year and her doctor can't find/get an alternative she has all the side effects that come with taking eltroxin and is desperate and is now being sent to hospital for tests. Somebody do something!!

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Find it amazing to see the symptoms of lack of thyroxine trivialized as fatigue and depression. This drug is an essential life support for many people - analogous to insulin for a diabetic - without it they die!

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Do you remember what it felt like when you first went to the Dr and felt like you were going crazy and falling apart? (pre diagnosis)
Well that's how it feels on this evil drug.

Medsafe - whether it makes sense to you or not, This drug is wrong!

Please please give us back our lives.

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I agree, its evil

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Somewhere along the line I was switched to Oroxine, which is also mfd' by Glaxo Smith Kline. I don't know if it is the same thing with a different name or not. However, I live in Malaysia. For the last several months I have been having a problem with joint pain and lethargy. I've been assuming that I was suffering from the aging process, but after reading about the problems my Kiwi mates are having I suspect I am in for a round of visits to the Endocrinologist. I'm kicking myself for not being more aware of T4 therapy and symptoms consistent with hypothyroidism. I hope all of the good folks in NZ that are suffering through this find relief soon. If anyone reading this has a link to a good discussion group on hypothyroidism please share it here. I am clearly gong to have to take a more proactive posture relative to this condition.

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Dear Anonymous
I am on Oroxine and live in Australia. I have been on this drug since
moving to Australia 6 years ago and are having endless problems with
my health all of a sudden. So I dont think it is somethng that happened
overnight with this new tablet available. I was on Eltroxin in South Africa
since 1992 and no side effects. With Oroxine my weight ballooned,got
depressed, tired all the time, so much that I cant get up before 9 in
the morning. Cant do much at the moment. However 2 weeks ago I
discovered my tablets were fininshed and because I didnt feel like
going to see the doctor, just left it. Went to see him on Thursday to
get a bloodtest done. Since stopping the tablets, I feel much better.
No foggy brain, still a little tired, no heart palpations that landed me
in hospital 3 times, and the depression seems to take flight. My
tablet is made in Australia by Sigma and we have to keep it in the fridge. Strange!!!!!!!! I am also looking for a discussion group where
we can talk about this horrible tablet that is making our lives hell!!!!!

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I too have been taking oroxine for 15 years, in the past the potency of this medication has been a problem mainly due to the number of tablets is the jar. I use the 50mcg tablets. I need two and a half per day so the dose is never accurate unless use use the other half that you cut the night before. Over time the drug company producing this medication twigged that they were putting to many tablets in the bottle and then brought it out in packs of 5 bottles. So you would have 40 tablets in each. You would take one bottle out at a time and once out of the fridge you kept it out of the fridge until all the tablets were used up.
This for me has been the best as it is going to get stability wise.
Now the same company has brought the medication out in blister packs and I notice the tablets are getting too soft in these packs even in the fridge because they aren't vaccum packed, at least that is my theory anyway.
I can relate to the leg and bone pain that others have complained about but have never thought it to be related to this medication and has only occurred over the last two years as well as frequent wakening during the night. I feel so washed out and tired I don't know how much longer I can tolerate this lack of energy and fatigue. To make matters worse my husband has just been diagnosed with a large cold nodule on this thyroid so he has to have his entire thyroid removed next month and I am dreading the after affects on him. He does tolerate illness very well, so it is a very worrying time for me.
I have just emailed Sigma about these blister packs and I suggest that anyone with any concerns do the same the email address is on the leaflet inside the pack. The more that complain the better as far as I am concerned.

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i 2 have had the same problems as you,i read once about horomnes from pigs which they say do not give you side affects,but my dr says that they carnt get to australia.my life has never been the same since i have had this problem ,i was always heathly and happy my weight has gone from 54 kilos to 90 .

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interested in your comments as I too am on levothyroixine after thyroid cancer in 1982 at 21 now 48! I wonder of the side effects of this as they seem similar to yours. I never post like this but am so frustrated in FL USA! if interested in continuing a discussion - please do.

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This GSK medication caused many terrible problems for my wife. Some of them were angina, fatigue, nausea, fluid retention, blurred vision, flaky itchy skin, hair loss, severe depression and anxiety, and relentless pain that did not respond to any common painkiller. I really thought she was dying........Then we were told about Goldshield. Now, one week after starting on the Goldshield medicine she is able to go for a walk, peel potatoes, work out a shopping list and do the shopping.
She is still a bit tired at the end of the day, but wow! what a difference! THUMBS DOWN TO PHARMAC!

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Since diagnosed 6 weeks ago and taking thyroxine, I am now practically a cripple, can't walk due to excruciating burning in the balls of my foot the foot doctor tells me to go to walmart and buy cheap sneaks my orthotics and Avia, were not soft enough? Seems funny taking thyroxine for 6 weeks now can't walk because of the burning? Will it hurt me to stop taking the thyroxine? People say you die, is this true of a thyroid condition?

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I take 125mg levothyroxine and haven't even considered that it might be the problem with the terrible pain in my feet. And the foggy days. Until i see this forum. No doctor has mentioned the medication to me only its important to take it.

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hi alot of those things your wife went through sounds sofamiliar to me and i am only 4o and i have noticed alot o joint pain particularly in my ankles and feet and fluid retention itchy skin and just felt real yuk so yuk i can hardly put it into words. This GOLDSHEILD is that out in new zealand and replacing the eltroxin? Would love any info on this thanks

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Excellent.. I want to try Gold Shield, but cant see my GP helping me out, as she is just so stuck on my weight gain and doesnt care to look for a cause and I KNOW its the Eltroxin making me ill..
Good luck to you and your wife

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I've been on old form since 1971& never 1 problem with it Started the new pill 5/9/08 then to stay with daughter in Dunedin for 6 days & couldn't get warm (cold in marrow, dry irritated throat, then severe frontal headache(never before) Developed 16 cummulative symptoms,now gone on natural thyroid since 1/8

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I had my thyroid removed 13 yrs ago due to cancer. Since then I have been on Thyroxine and now levothyroxine. I have had no end of problems with both. I am very interested to know what the natural thyroid replacement is that you are talking about. I am only 35 and it is driving me crazy.

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I have gain a tremendous amount of weight and been unable to remove through diet and a,m snoring that it is ruining my marriage is this a side effect of the drug and what can I take in replacement to help with these symtoms

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hi there, would really love to know a natural product or tablet i could take to replace eltroxin, i am only 4o yrs old and feel so yuk this last year, trying to raise two teenage boys and i need to feel a hek of a lot better than i do now or i am gonna go crazy,

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I have been on Thyroxine for 17 years, now on Levothyroxine as of this year. You mentioned you are now on natural thyroid. Where do you get this from?

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when I changed to eltroxin developed, forgetfulness,headaches,fatigue, not advised of change in tablets until few months ago now starting goldshield fingers crossed I will feel better

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I had been on Throxine for twenty years. Shortly after starting Eltroxin my palms, soles of my feet and gums developed a stinging itching prickliness. Pharmacist, dentist and doctor had no solution and the latter did not consider it a result of eltroxin.I have been on a roller coaster ride since, even being off any thyroid medication for three weeks with with very unpleasant results. I'll mention only the nausea and swollen tongue and throat. To take eltroxin again on an empty stomach with only water was impossible. It felt as though this small pill was lodged in my throat. I am on an increased supply of eltroxin and expect little change for another four weeks.I exist in hope.

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I have been managing my depression with Amytriptilene for more than 30 years and have stayed with it for so long because of the quality of sleep it affords. I also take Thyroxine each day and hadn't noticed the new word Levothyrine on the label on the recent subscriptions. About 2 months ago I found I was not sleeping and had very painful hands and feet, burning lips and tongue and a general sensation of being unwell without energy. I explained all the symptoms to my Dr and mentioned that I couldn't sleep despite still being on Amitrip. I asked him what had changed. It was not me, it had to be the medication and jokingly suggested the Amitrip was actually a Placebo. How could it stop working for me after all these years? He said he had no idea what was wrong and gave me a short supply of sleeping pills to "break the cycle". The sleeping pills did not work which I think shows what we are dealing with. Since I've followed up with research on the net and spoken with one other who has similar symptoms (and one on this forum)it's clear to me there is a problem and it's no good them saying the base ingredient in Levothyrine is identical---there is a problem and the sooner it's recognised and fixed the better. For me each night is agony and the lack of sleep devastating. We need your help Pharmac!!

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Thank goodness I may not be losing the plot and going crazy on my own accord. I'm off to the chemist tomorrow to try and source an alternate to the evil levothyroxine I'm taking.

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Have been taking thyroxine since 1985 without any side effects. Over the last year Ive suffered from severe headaches dizziness to the point of falling, palpatations and although Ive been seeing my doctor nothing was ever said about the change to my medication!!What a disgrace.

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I have been on the benefit since last November after collapsing (for no reason the medical profession can find) at home.I had just started the new prescription of thyroxin??? There followed a roller coaster couple of months until one day I took my aspirin with my thyroxin and the side-effects became manageable ( I don't know why) Can't wait for Goldshield and hopefully I will get my healthy body and mind back!

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Thank goodness I'm not going mad! I have been on thyroxine since the early 90's and over the last 3 months have experienced some very disturbing side effects which I now know come from the new drug Levothyroxine. These side effects include, heart palpitations, lethargy, depression, feeling extremely cold, continual stomach upsets, blurred vision, flaky skin and worst of all memory loss. Shame on Pharmac! Something has to be done.

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Now it's all starting to make sense!! My thyroxine was also changed and I have had weight gain, depression, memory loss, lethargy and aching joints. I too was putting it down to the aging process but it has all happened since the tablets were changed so now I know I am not going nuts

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Like everyone else I have wondered what was wrong, since August 07, when the name on my thyroxin bottle changes, - different name, same product was the associated assurance - when all the symptons of untreated hypothyroyidism and a few extras beside started.. I began asking for blood tests and higher doses to no effect. Now I can't get Goldshield... whats going on??? Another supply hopefully coming but what are we expected to do in the meantime??

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Like many others I too have felt what was wrong,I had asked my doctor to test my thyroid as I was extremely lethargic and tired, had bad migraines, and very sore eyes, red and runny and felt dry all the time, and had extremely sore muscles and aching which I had to have strong pain killers in order for the pain to ease, Iam going to try an get an alternative now after advising my doctor of the side effects and weight gain, the government really need to do something about this problem ...

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Hi everyone- this all sounds so familiar to me, I have been trying to get something done about this since June as well but been overseas on a holiday since then. That kind pharmacist in Temuka helped me a lot, getting some of the old kind to me just the day I flew out overseas. How could i go without any thyroxine and I have the red eyes, headache so bad my head is splitting as we speak and nausea so bad that I convinced my GP to get my gallbladder xrayed before i went away. You are not imagining it- I am a Registered Nurse and trying to hold a professional job down ( probably like most of you) and trying to stay sane and focused HA HA while the government and Pharmac sort this out. I came back fully expecting it all to be blown over, only to find out that i have to go back onto the old (bad) stuff, which I vomit with so much I have to have some days off, but do they expect us to stay off it- we can't do without it- indefinitely until they sort something out. No- they don't- but they don't have any other solutions- take it at night- well- yes I didn't sleep at all last night and the headache and red eyes are still with me. Hopefully this non- funded stuff from Canada due in tomorrow will be good- but God help me if it doesn't help. Meanwhile- in a really manic state yesterday- O yes, my thyroid they have wanted to suppress deliberately- kicked it again yesterday with a vengence- I did get a lot done, but hell my workmates must think I am mental- and yes I am as sick as a dog today. Come on guys... DO SOMETHING

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hi, I have just been reading all the comments about this drug.I was surprised to see you mention your gallbladder. I have been on thyroxine since early 90s without trouble and like everyone else has been switched to this new form. I have recently had to have my gallbladder removed as I had a benign tumor in it. I would be interested to know if this drug could have made this condition. The memory loss, weight gain,bloating and bowell problems as well as eye conditions are driving me made too.anyone have any informatio on this for me please

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Hi all,

I am based in the UK, but my doctor put me on Eltroxin about 7 weeks ago. Since then I have put on half a stone, despite going to the gym 4 times a week and eating a relatively healthy diet.I have never had any issues with my weight before. I have barely slept for the past 3 weeks and have been having menopausal type hot flushes that may be the reason I am not sleeping. I am only 35 and feel like I am going through early menopause. I have very sore and itchy eyes and sore aching shoulders. I am hoping that it is the eltroxin causing these symptoms. Eltroxin was a bit of a last resort for me as I have tried lots of variations of thyroxine, lyothyronine combos with no success. After reading all this I am going to see my doctor tomorrow and request a change. It sounds like Eltroxin is having some pretty serious side effects. I was diagnosed with Hashimotos thyroiditis 4 years ago, and started experiencing gallbladder pain 2 years ago. I had to have my gallbladder removed and it had a non cancerous lump on it. I know of several people that have had the same problems with their gallbladder and have thyroid problems. My doctor didn't seem to make any link between the two but it seems that there is a link. Not sure if its the medication that causes the gallbladder problems or the thyroid problems that did it. I feel very frustrated that 1/ I have been ill for 4 years and am still not sorted and 2/ the medical profession seem relatively disinterested in thyroid disorders in general. I think due to the fact that thyroid disorders mainly affect women, the medical profession are not interested. If it was affecting more men I am sure more money and time would be spent researching these problems. How has no one made a link between thyroid issues and gallbladder problems?? I feel for every single person on here, thyroid problems ruin your life and every day is a battle both physically and mentally. I feel my body is my enemy and I am totally trapped. I love life but most of the time I feel ill, tired and totally dispirited. Medical profession - is ANYONE listening to us????????

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Hello - can you give me the name of the Temuka Pharmacist who can provide the "old" thyroxine pills.

I have tried Levothroxine, Synthroid and Goldshield and still suffering side effects after 30 years symptomless on Thyroxin

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So tell me, is this considered a medical treatment injury? Maybe we should all start claims at ACC, that might get their attention to stop messing with our medication. More than likely the changes only occured to save money without real consideration to the very minute variations the new drug obviously has.

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I have been on tablets for 14 years and have developed symptoms of what I call an old age disease since changing in June of this year. I am 43 and have pains in knees, top of legs and shoulders/arms in the joints. I am living off vultarin and am still full of pain, can't sit for long and when stand takes while to get moving. Can't bend over, and without vultarin cannot put socks on, I wake up heaps of time during night in pain and have difficulty moving in bed. Have stopped all normal activities and when do do something such as vaccuming or hang out washing am in pain and exhausted next day. I fed up. Was sent to rhumertologist and am waiting results from blood tests, but I believe it is these pills. I will change as soon as new ones come out - heres hoping!

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I have to start by saying a huge thank you to my 11y old son who is home sick today otherwise I would still be at work. I had a chance to sit down and see a small piece in the news about the drug Levothyroxine (ELT) formaly known as eltroxin. I immediately started to search the web and found this page. I was born 1968 with a non palpable thyroid but it was not untill i was about two and a half that the doctors would do anything about it, my pore mother was treated as if she was stupid and did not know what she was talking about.
I was placed on thyroxine and monited closely up into my late teens and then just 3 monthly blood tests. In 1991 while living in Waiouru, the doctor decided that I did not need thyroxine any more and said that my thyroid had started functioning for itself.
I was not monited in any way when i was taken of thyroxine. I fell pregnant with my first son and went through my pregnancy without the drug that my body needed most. Six weeks after my son was born my body started to shut down. If it was not for a nurse in town who knew me and that I had previously lived all my life on thyroxine and got me tested straight away i would not be here today.
I remained on Thyroxine untill 2006 about August when it was changed to eltroxin. I do remember asking the chemist if it was a different drug. He said that it was just the name that was changed. I thought nothing of it at first. By October I had starting having strange symtoms and for awhile even thought that i was pregnant. i feel sick, i have gained weight my hair was always falling out, feeling chilled to the bone, major head aches body pains, and terrible brain fog. The Doctors have been making me feel as if i am loopy and to be honest most days now i feel as if i am on another planet.
The last time i got my pills i noticed the name had changed again only now i am also having trouble swallowing the pills they get stuck in my throut.
All this time i thought that i was loosing the plot and know that i am not alone at all.

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6 months now i have taken this pill, i was taking thyroxine for last 7 years, i felt fine even if i missed it here and there. But since taking levothyroxine not that i have gained weight, headaces everyday, feel sick, hair loss, i thought i was pregant. I thought i was going crazying because the way i am feeling, my skin has gone really bad, rashes, dark patches on my neck, around my mouth, eyes. I thought it was my iron pills, stop taking them but the side effects did't go away. So i thought if it could be the thyroid pills,so i type the name in net and see i am not the only one feeling these side effects. I was told excatly the samething that its just different name. How can they do this? This is so not right, i am only 27 years old, went from being healthy to totaly sick very day, yestaday i cudn't even take my son to school of how bad my headace was. So today i didn't take the pill and i feel fine, i did't even nap today which had become my daily rountine, bc of my headace and feeling of vomiting all the time. I am so shocked about levothyroxine! Its like they are testing the pill on everyone, without knowing the side effects. This is disgusting...

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Hi everyone, my wife and I have a 5 year old son who was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 12 days after birth. He has been taking thyroxine ever since then.
Up until late last year he didn't have any issues with his medication, then his medication changed to eltroxin, we have noticed some urinary issues, mood swings, behavioural issues and eye problems.
We have sort health profesional advice and care for all of the above problems but with little or no answers/outcomes.
We have been astounded at the lack of knowledge by either doctors and/or paediatricians about the complaints that have been steadily building up over the last 9 months around eltroxin, we had to ask them to google the drug so they could see the extent of the complaints.
We are absolutely p***ed off with Glaxo/Smith/Kline and Pharmac for endangering our childs wellbeing and possibly his life, there aren't enough expletives in the english language to let you all know how we feel.
If there is a legal avenue to deal with this, it should be explored!!!
There are a couple of lessons we have learn't from this experience, we should listen to our bodies as we know better than anyone what is going on with them, and probably the obvious lesson, drug companies are in the business of making a buck, at face value they couldn't care less about the millions of people who rely on their product to keep them alive, don't trust them, we have to keep them honest.
I am pleased to say that at last the NZ government is stepping in to help deal with this issue and should be naming an alternative drug sometime this week.

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Hi i have 2 sons who were diagnoside at birth 2 weeks old stating that they had no thyroids only now 31 years later to find out that they have both got thyroids . THey have taken a 100mg of thyroxine for 31 ears and you can imagine how i feel and how they feel they have no trusts in doctors. We are more than P........

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