When a friend, who has celiac disease and the same low thyroid issue as I do, called me to tell me how upset she was when she discovered that this brand name thyroid medication called Cytomel contained gluten, I really didn't know what to think. Lisa pointed out "I am just so upset--every can of soup has to be labelled with ingredients and you can see if it contains wheat. But prescription medicine doesn't have to be labelled? How is this possible?"
To get more information about whether Cytomel contained gluten, I spoke to Christine with customer service at Pfizer 1-800-438-1985, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures Cytomel. Christine looked at database and checked with someone else and reported back that: "it lists as an inactive ingredient "starch" which would be wheat based and likely to be a potential source of gluten"
I was actually shocked to hear that it contains wheat starch. I have been on this medicine for a few years. (A few years, I will add, that I have been doing so-so and thought that my thyroid problems were causing me problems--never thinking it might be from gluten in my doctor prescribed thyroid medication.) After hearing that Cytomel contains wheat starch, my doctor replied "I am stunned and speechless."
"Cytomel, which is a popular synthetic T3 hormone, has modified food starch – which contains gluten – as a filler."
But, the bigger issue, is WHY AREN'T PHARMACEUTICALS REQUIRED TO LIST INGREDIENTS AND MAJOR ALLERGENS like food companies? How can a company like Pfizer get away with listing "starch" as an ingredient and not tell consumers the source of the starch? And how many of their other medications also contain "starch" which is actually wheat?
Unfortunately, the Gluten in Medicine Identification Act of 2012 (House of Representatives 4972 Bill) never passed. Until there is better disclosure, the safest thing to do is to call the pharmaceutical companies directly and ask if there is gluten in the medication.
NOTE/ALTERNATIVE TO CYTOMEL...
I confirmed the generic my pharmacy carries of Cytomel, called Liothyronine Sodium, from Paddock Laboratories is gluten free by speaking directly to customer service at Paddock Laboratories (800) 328-5113. Because formulas change, it is best to check DIRECTLY with the manufacturer about whether a medication contains gluten. (You can look at the back of your prescription label to find the name of the manufacturer--but you might need your glasses because the print is so tiny.)
Paddock Laboratories, who makes the generic my pharmacy sells, is much more transparent with their ingredients (inactive ingredients: Calcium Sulfate, Cellulose, microcrystalline, hypromellose, talc and silicon dioxide) which are listed at the National Library of Medicines Daily Med site page for the liothyronine sodium. The same Daily Meds page for Cytomel does not mention any inactive ingredients so it is harder to know exactly what it contains.
NOTE TO PFIZER...
I am happy to report if you switch to a gluten free starch--and if you ever certify your medication to be gluten free!