Will Pfizer Bounce Back From Last Year’s Levoxyl Shortage?


Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) will again be shipping a thyroid drug that was in short supply last year. The company ran into issues after it attempted to try a new manufacturing process which resulted in a recall. The drug, Levoxyl, should be available in U.S. retail pharmacies around March 3, according to the Wall Street Journal.

To combat the loss in market share during the shortage, the company is also offering eligible new patients a 30-day free trial of the drug, although it’s unclear whether patients will be willing to switch back.

Pfizer first started recalling the thyroid medicine in February of last year when consumers began reporting issues of plastic-like odors. The company investigated the complaints and tracked the odors to the medicine’s oxygen-absorbing containers in both the 100-count and 1,000-count bottles. The odor was unlikely to cause health problems, Pfizer said, but was recalled “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a FierceBiotech report. All told, the company recalled about 52,000 bottles of Levoxyl.

The recall was disruptive to patients taking the drug because they were forced to temporarily switch to other thyroid medicines, some of which caused new side effects in former Levoxyl users such as hair loss, and others said they had to pay more money out of pocket for the alternative forms of the medicine.

Levoxyl is approved to treat hypothyroidism, a condition caused by a deficiency in the body’s production of certain hormones and which results in symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and tiredness, and increases a person’s risk of certain other conditions such as heart attack and stroke. Levoxyl is also used to treat and prevent goiter, an enlargement of the thyroid gland that occurs when the body is unable to make enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs.

One Boston-area doctor, Jeffrey Garber, who spoke with the Wall Street Journal, said his practice had to switch about 1,000 patients from Levoxyl to other medications like Synthroid, which is made by Mylan, Inc., due to the recall. He says some of his patients experienced side effects such as hives due the switch in medications, although many have adjusted. He reported to the Journal that he is unlikely to proactively switch patients back to Levoxyl now that the shortage is over, unless they specifically request it: “What would possess anyone to switch again?” he told the publication.