Investigating Levothyroxine Use and Its Association with Thyroid Health in Patients with Hypothyroidism: A Community Pharmacy Study

Els Mehuys, Bruno Lapauw, Guy T'Sjoen, Thierry Christiaens, An De Sutter, Stephane Steurbaut, Inge Van Tongelen, Koen Boussery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: To gain maximum therapeutic effect while minimizing side effects, it is imperative for patients with hypothyroidism to use their levothyroxine (LT4) correctly, such as adhering to the prescribed regimen. Little is currently known about how patients actually use LT4 in real life. We investigated the use of LT4, as well as the thyroid health (thyrotropin [TSH] and health-related quality of life [HR-QoL]), and evaluated if proper LT4 use is associated with better thyroid health. Methods: A cross-sectional observational study was conducted in a Belgian community sample of adults using LT4 for hypothyroidism since ≥2 years. Participants completed a self-administered questionnaire on patient characteristics, self-reported adherence to LT4, timing of intake, and co-medication. They also completed the thyroid-specific patient-reported outcome (ThyPRO-39) questionnaire, measuring the HR-QoL. Pharmacy dispensing data were used to calculate the medication possession ratio (MPR). Results: We included 856 participants (mean age 61.4 ± 14.3 years, 86% [740/856] females). Approximately one in four participants (138/563) had out-of-range TSH levels. Generally, ThyPRO-39 scores were in the lower part of the range (indicating better HR-QoL), with the scales "emotional susceptibility" and "tiredness" showing the worst scores. Approximately 28% (178/632) of the participants were classified as non-adherent (MPR <80%), corresponding to at least 73 cumulative days per year without LT4 intake. Twenty-five percent (212/854) of participants self-reported non-adherence, with unintentional non-adherence (forgetfulness) most frequently reported (21.9%, 187/854). Only 39% (329/836) of participants complied with the recommendation of ingesting LT4 ≥ 30 minutes before eating. Additionally, 7% (58/856) of participants concurrently used molecules that bind to LT4, without applying the recommended dosing interval. There was no significant correlation between LT4 usage (adherence, timing of intake, and interaction with complex forming drugs) and TSH or HR-QoL. Conclusions: We found that many participants with hypothyroidism did not use their LT4 as effectively as possible, particularly with respect to timing of administration. However, the participants' HR-QoL seemed largely satisfactory, and there was no significant correlation between correctly using LT4 and thyroid health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-926
Number of pages9
Issue number8
Early online date15 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright 2023, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers.

Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • adherence
  • community pharmacy
  • hypothyroidism
  • levothyroxine
  • quality of life


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