How does your insurance deal with desiccated thyroid?

(This post was updated to the present day and time. Enjoy!)

Wendy is one of those gals that tries to adhere to “natural” in regards to her medication choices. She switched over to Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) from Synthroid about three months ago.

The transition was slightly trying, says Wendy. Her doctor didn’t believe her that she shouldn’t be on a low starting dose for more than a couple weeks without upping it. So she  went hypothyroid all over again. It’s a common mistake that many doctors make with NDT.

But after successfully upping the dose every few weeks, she will now shout that it’s been the BEST thing  in every way!  She tells folks that being on Synthroid was like having your hand amputated and replaced with a hook, while being on desiccated thyroid was like having it replaced with a fully functional prosthetic.  Her skin is softer, hair is not shedding, her mood has changed in a good way, memory has returned, fogginess has faded. She feels closer to her old self than she has in almost five years.

Now the bad news…

All this time, she only paid $15 for her desiccated thyroid at the local Walgreen’s. But as of April 1st, it will be considered what is called a Tier 3 drug under her insurance plan–United Healthcare.  Exclaims Wendy in outrage and sadness:  “This means that the natural drug I love, that has restored my in so many ways that the synthetic t4-only drugs never could, will now cost 85 bucks! Who can afford that?!

And here’s the awful irony: Synthroid, the worst medication ever thrust upon us in the treatment of hypothyroid, is Tier 2 (i.e. costs less), and generic T4-only is Tier 1 (costs even less).  i.e. if you are under this insurance, you have to pay big bucks to feel a thousand times better.  She has no clue why this is happening, but warns that it might start to happen across the board for others as well!

In the United States, most Tiers look like this (and some companies have three tiers, while others have five):

Tier 1 is for generic medications and has the lowest co-pay

Tier 2 is for “preferred” brand name medications, i.e based on “safety, efficacy and cost”, and is the second lowest co-payment. (I put the word preferred in quotes because it’s not based on what changes YOUR life as a thyroid patient.)

Tier 3 is for non-preferred brand name medications or preferred specialty drugs. It’s termed as those drugs which are not typically used as first line of treatment, and have a higher co-pay.

Tier 4 is for specialty medications, i.e those which require special dosing or administration. Highest co-payment.

In the United Kingdom, where the National Health Service (NHS) provides publicly funded health care, there are formularies which specify which medications are available…or not, and one can get Prescription prepayment certificates (PPC) .

In Australia, “Medicare – via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) – subsidises the cost of around 1,700 ‘necessary and life-saving’ medicines. In fact, most medicines available on prescription are subsidised under the PBS, so just by having a prescription filled you receive the benefit of the subsidy.

Does your health insurance cover your desiccated thyroid?


How medical journals affect the prescription practice of your doctor: An interesting article on this found here. And here’s an article about how the author of a medical article fails to state his association with the pharmaceutical of the product he is writing about–one more conflict of interest and influence on your doctor!

Ridiculous! Basing “normal” for Hashimotos patients by the TSH, a pituitary hormone, NOT a thyroid hormone: Read it here and weep.

Vit. D can help you stay sharp: So many benefits from optimizing your Vit D, and here’s one with your brain.

Need to talk to others? See all your alternatives here.

30 Responses to “How does your insurance deal with desiccated thyroid?”

  1. karen

    this is so obvious that this is the reason they”reformulated” armour. to be able to charge a whole lot’s all about $ for corporations. we need more protests like in wisconsin

  2. Marina

    Wendy may do better to not have this go through her insurance. Shop and compare prices at Costco, Walgreens, private pharmacies and see what “an out of pocket” cost might be. Her insurance is the one that is setting the price for her and she may be able to find something far better on her own. I remember paying about $35 for compounded natural thyroid which was not covered under my policy. I use Erfa now and find the price very agreeable even though I don’t run it through my insurance.

  3. DeAnna

    This happened to me as well – same insurance – United HC – but it was more difficult for my pharmacist to also order the Armour. I changed to my husband’s federal policy. I am back on Synthcrap per my internist but wanting to change back to NT to try for a pregnancy. Insurance companies just control everything as our premiums continue to rise.

  4. Robin

    I’m on levothyroxine, just started in like a month ago and now I want to find out about Armour. I’m also thinking I might need a doctor who specializes in hypothyroism but no idea how to find one.

    (From Janie: Robin, go here: And no, you don’t need a doc who specializes in it. You just need any doc who is good enough to prescribe it and based on what we have learned: Go into a doc’s office prepared to guide him or her. YOU are your own best advocate)

  5. Robin

    Is this armour or is it a fake?

    (Robin, Armour is a prescription brand of desiccated thyroid. What you are looking at is an over-the-counter. If you need further feedback, join patient groups from here: )

  6. Carrie

    Agree with Marina. At Randall’s pharmacy (or perhaps it’s Safeway in your area) the wonderful pharmacist told me it’s $4 on the Randall’s savings plan (no cost) and $20 on my insurance. Duh, it does not go on my insurance. It’s worth calling around to some pharmacies for price comparison.

  7. Karie

    It doesn’t surprise me one bit that United Health Care would do such a thing as they are also my insurance carrier through my employer. In the past year I have wondered why I even bother using them as their prices have gone up considerably across the board. I have adult ADHD and UHC suddenly decided that I am too old to take the ADHD medication that my doctor prescribes me. So yes, I would advise Wendy to check pharmacy retail prices instead of using her insurance. I bet she will find the cost a lot less.

  8. Tom

    I quit the VA’s synthroid because it did no good. Armour thyroid has been reformulated, weaker since a year’s absence from the market and now I have my desiccated dried thyroid compounded for me. Regretfully, you can’t trust brand names for thyroid any more.. I’m out of the depression now and taking the weight off once again. You really need the t1, t2, t3, and t4, as well as free t’s.

  9. Dana

    Try a compounding pharmacy. Mine doesn’t file insurance for me, but I only pay around $20 for my armour 90 mg 30 day supply.

  10. DC

    My insurance company has never covered Armour or Naturthroid. I pay out of pocket and only pay $15 for 135 1 grain tablets per month. Less than my copay. Really doesn’t matter if insurance pays for it. It’s cheap.

  11. Andrew Poretz

    My healthcare (Oxford) does the same thing (my top tier is $75), and as a result, it’s far cheaper for me to use one of the Canada drug sites to get it — $81 including shipping for 100 doses, which is the equivalent of $.81 a day, or less than $25 a month. The site I use though now sends me part Erfa from Canada and part Armour from the U.S. (it was all Erfa for the past six months of medicine.) I’m only in my first month of this combination, so still assessing this change.

  12. Lorie

    I don’t use my insurance for my thyroid meds either. I have UHC+Medco for rx’s. I order across the border and get Erfa thyroid. Right now, the out of pocket expense isn’t an issue. But it sure would be nice if I could deduct all moneys spent on meds + supplements.

  13. Juli

    Well yes in a way; my insurance pays $4.00 and I pay $20.00 for my Naturethroid – 90 days of 3 grains/day. Last year when it wasn’t available from my insurance, I used K-Mart and paid $25.00 for the same amount. Insurance wants to send me Armour all the time and I had to refuse it before they would send Naturethroid.

  14. Elizabeth

    It really sucks for people on disability when insurance won’t cover natural dessicated thyroid and they can’t afford to pay for it – I was charged 33 dollars for 30 90mg Armour Thyroid pills at CVS Pharmacy last fall.

  15. Anita has a 90 day supply of Armour for $36.00.

    Nature-Throid is cheaper. An independent review upheld my Medicare Part D plan’s refusal to cover Nature-Throid because it is not FDA approved and so illegal to be provided. It is too cheap to allow me to appeal further.

    On the other hand,I tried to buy Armour (as instructed by United American) and when insurance was denied, I requested Armour be covered…and it was even though it, too, is not FDA approved last I heard. A 90 day supply will be less than $12 through their mail order supplier Merck Medco.

  16. Johann Mitchell

    I had been getting Armor through my insurance free, but suddenly they started charging me about $6. I called my insurance company and they said that Armor Thyroid “is not an FDA approved drug” so they wouldn’t pay for it.

    According to my pharmacy (CVS) I’m paying full price for it, so if you’re paying more than about $6, I suspect that someone’s making extra money off you.

    Price it at a different pharmacy. WalMart and Target are advertising low prices. Maybe they’d be able to help.

  17. Lynn M.

    I buy my Nature-throid from The price varies depending on the dosage and how many pills you order at one time. You can get the price from their website.

    I paid $47.22 last month for 270 65 mg. (1 grain) Nature-throid pills. When my refills run out I’ll get my doctor to write a script for a year’s worth of pills so it will be even cheaper.

  18. Randi Hilary

    (Dec 2011) Just got a letter from my health insurer stating “ARMOUR THYROID is one of the drugs that is excluded from Medicare coverage by law” supposedly “under section 1860D-2(e)(2) of the Social Security Act”…when used to treat certain medical conditions…unless it is covered by a plan as a supplemental benefit(!!!). Has anyone else run into this, and if so, what can be done?

    (From Janie: Yes, that is an unfortunate and stupid law. What you can do is buy it full price—it’s cheap.)

    • Donna

      Full price is NOT CHEAP. They wanted $12 for 14 pills at cvs cuz Medicare Part d doesn’t cover it.

      • Janie

        Donna, there was a probably a misunderstanding by you or the Pharmacist, as desiccated thyroid is cheap. i.e. some people are only paying in the teens for a month’s supply of their particular amount. Others in the twenties if they need more.

  19. Sara

    I finally got drug coverage through a part D supplement to Medicare, but I’ve been told they will not pay for Armour. I only switched to Armour about 6 months ago and for this 1st time in greater than 20 years my lab levels were adjusted, even a bit high….which proves to me I am absorbing it much better.

    So now I’ve been told I need to consider going on Levoxyl or going to a drug from Canada, not sure what it is though. Very frustrating since my body finally got a bit straightened out in that regard, now I face going backwards again. I can’t afford to pay for it.

  20. Melissa

    Try Nature-Throid, which is a generic form of Armour. Keep in mind that the most expensive part of medication (typically) is the filling part of it. So if your doctor will prescribe a 3 month or 6 month supply, it will save you big time. When I was on a half grain my month supply was $12. When I was prescribed 1 1/2 grains my 3 month supply was $27, and this was at the local grocery store pharmacy, versus Walgreens, Rite Aid, or CVS where I know I can get it much cheaper. My insurance won’t pay for anything natural…including docs that perscribe natural, BUT my hashimotos is worth every penny of natural that I pay for. And I’m not rich or even middle class, organic, vegetarian, or “all natural”. I just want to feel good, and this is the medicine that found my energy and my lost motivation.

    (P.S. From Janie: Naturethroid is not a generic. It’s simply another brand.)

  21. Liz Yorke

    I have been taking Armour Thyroid 90+.25 since 2008 following a total thyroidectomy. Levothyroxine was miserable for me – I could not stay on it. Armour has served me well through the years and I am healthy, at 73 years old. Devastating to find that the price has gone up – I now pay around $84 for my 90 day supply. It is not covered by my United Health care insurance and I have to have this medication to stay alive. FDA needs to know that people do do well and stay well on it, and that small inconsistencies in the product are probably evened out over time in the body. I had far more problems with levothyoxine – heart rate elevations, foggy brain, weight gain, eye puffiness -dragging around – even though my numbers were in normal range. Now numbers are still in normal range but I feel great – I have energy, my weight has dropped to near normal for me, and my brain is awake – never again do I want to feel as I did on levothyroxine.

  22. Marianne

    I am on disability and my prescription coverage is a part D Medicare plan and what is not covered by Medicare can be covered by Medicaid. Medicaid in Massachusetts pays for Armour. No idea how they can do this with a drug not FDA approved. Pharmacies can dispense Armour and drugs with the same formulation because of their proven safety, as Armour has been used since 1903 and was the first thyroid hormone used to treat hypothyroidism. I am fighting with Medicare to pay for my Nature-throid. I am allergic to Synthroid and Armour thyroid. I am currently taking Armour thyroid and have to take tons of Benadryl, but at any moment I could unexpectedly go into anaphylactic shock, risking my life. My entire body is scratched to death and bleeding, a potential breeding ground for all sorts of infections. I am literally losing my mind from the itching. I did finally get a refill of my 97.5 mg. Nature-throid and only paid $15 + some cents with one of those non- insurance discount cards you see in newspapers, magazines, and some doctors offices. (a 30 day supply). I am paying $10.99 for a 15 day supply of Benadryl so I can take Armour for free. So it costs me more to take free Armour. Plus,any of my symptoms came back on the Armour, and my TSH went up. So, Nature-throid is best for me. Medicare needs to get their facts straight. The FDA is never going to approve these drugs because it does not need to. The are already grandfathered for approved use as prescription drugs in the US, otherwise no pharmacies or Medicaid (a Federally subsidized program, would be able to dispense or pay for Atmour-thyroid, Nature-throid, or WP thyroid. If Medicaid can legally pay for Armour, Medicare can fix the errors in their regulations. How to get non-insurance discount cards:
    Please note none of the discount amounts are guaranteed and do vary. Some of the cards say for all FDA approved drugs. But Nature-throid goes through, maybe because it is grandfathered. I had the pharmacist run all of these cards to get the biggest discount possible. If MAXIMUS an independent reviewer, does not approve my appeal and make Medicare pay for my Nature-throid, I am going to look into the 90-day supply savings program that CVS has and see how much of a discount will apply with one of the cards listed above. But $15 + cents is very reasonable for Nature-throid 97.5mg. I believe the full price at CVS is around $26 without insurance.
    ANOTHER TIP: make sure when you are filling prescriptions and using health insurance that you find out if your insurance has “preferred” pharmacies or network pharmacies. I have Aetna and they have both. You get the best prices at preferred pharmacies, then network pharmacies may have similar or higher prices and mon-preferred, out of network pharmacies are going to charge the most and some may not accept your insurance BUT with some drugs you could end up with a lower price if you do not use your insurance at all, regardless of the pharmacy, so check some websites and make some calls. Also, many insurance drug plans have mail order pharmacies. My lasts ill order pharmacy was amazing. I got a3 month supply for the cost of one month. So even if your insurance is charging you $30 a month for Nature-throid, maybe if you do their mail order pharmacy you can get 90 days for the $30. Getting your cost down to $10 per month. Go to your instance website, call them or re-read any materials they sent you. Most have all kinds of discounts plus the mail order pharmacy and many have deals with specific pharmacies. If you are on Medicare through disability, try to use your Medicaid for Armour. If you do not have Medicaid, try and get it. Medicaid in Massachusetts (MassHealth), also pays for vitamin D prescriptions for those with a vitamin D deficiency. Cannot recall if I did a prior authorization. Some how my mother, over 65, one dictate has a Medicare Part D plan paying for her vitamin D. They keep denying me payment?? My vitamin D level I crazy low.

  23. Marta

    What troubles me is that we need a prescription from a doctor, and must get it at a pharmacy and yet the drug is not covered by any drug plan. It’s not that I pay that much at Target, but it means that it doesn’t count toward my $310 deductible. The plan is the Rx Saver Plan through UHC, the least expensive plan I could find. Other than Armour, I take no medications. I have Myalgic Encephelomyalitis aka Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Many drugs and supplements don’t agree with me. I’m concerned that the problem may be thyroid, but my doctor says my numbers are good.

    I saw a natural health practitioner last year who told me that Armour Thyroid is the best for those who need a thyroid med, but that made in the US is not consistent. She urged me to get it from Canada. She also told me to bite the Armour pill in half and chew half of it. This has seemed to help, so I still get the drug from Target.

    I heard that AARP is trying to get them to keep this drug tier lower for us. I hope they can. Does anyone have regular needle biopsies from a endocrinologist? I have a friend who thinks they’re a necessity.

  24. Danita

    Try the phone app GoodRX. It shows Armour as $18 for 30 60mg tablets. This has been amazing for me as a daily migraine suffer. I can get the Maxalt for usually $25. Where it used to cost almost $500. Seriously, this app works just like those prescription cards you get in the mail.

  25. cynna

    COST OF ARMOUR RISING RAPIDLY… 3 months ago I paid $65 cash (non insurance) for 90 tabs @ 120 MG. Today, I paid $98.36. I checked Good RX and all the pharmacies have prices within a $5 range of what I paid. It’s total BS. And yet, I WON’T GO ON A SYNTHETIC FORM of T3/T4.

  26. Angela

    Hi All. I just found that Meijer’s Pharmacy charges only $138 for 360 tables of 60 mg Armour Thyroid/$42 for 90 day supply. That is the cheapest I have found anywhere! This is without insurance.

  27. Wendy

    On 3 grains of Armour. I’m disabled and on medicare. I am also on extra help, but they still won’t cover my Armour! Ugh, I feel like refusing to take anything! Going back to synthroid is something I just can’t do! I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer got a double mastectomy and have 2 types of cancer. Found out in my research that most women that get breast cancer also have thyroid issues…I wonder of its from taking synthetic thyroid meds? I was on synthroid for years and felt horrible! Armour made a huge diffence! My doctor wrote my insurance, they agreed to pay for 2 grains, but only for 10 days at a cost of 25.60 for those 10 days. How is this suppose to help me? I have to take 3 grains every day! I even tried a program that helps you with your meds, but I’d still have to pay 25.00 month. For me that’s a lot of money. I can’t believe I have to take these meds. What happens if I stop taking them?


Leave a Reply