A severely ill Northampton woman, who claims she has been living like a “suicidal old lady,” intends to risk her life buying rare drugs via the internet as the NHS cannot prescribe them.
Thirty-six-year-old Louise Dunlop, of Hartwell, had her thyroid removed in July and has since been suffering from severe memory loss, which she has compared to early onset dementia.
NHS doctors from Northamptonshire have been encouraged not to prescribe the life-changing liothyronine drug to Miss Dunlop but doctors as close as Hertfordshire have the discretion to give patients up to three tablets a day.
Miss Dunlop said: “After my thyroid was taken out in July, my brain fog turned me from a 36-year-old woman to an 80-year-old with early onset dementia.
“Over the past three months, my memory has been getting worse. It’s got to a point where I couldn’t even make a cup of tea, read a book or hold a conversation because I couldn’t remember what to do.
“I constantly felt like I was severely drunk and I couldn’t remember the night before. It was terrifying, suddenly I didn’t understand conversations I was having with my partner. I felt like a suicidal old lady.”
Miss Dunlop, who also suffers from arthritis and kidney disease, was diagnosed with an overactive thyroid nearly four years ago.
Since undergoing surgery in the summer, she has discovered that she needed a rare drug known as liothyronine to help her body convert thyroxine, a tablet given to patients with underactive thyroids.
Most patients do not need help to convert the drug, but because of Miss Dunlop’s other ongoing medical issues, her body needs extra help to adapt.
“I can’t afford to pay £290 a month for 28 tablets,” she said. “I’ve been told by my doctor that I can buy the same medication from Greece or Turkey for £35, but as they come in a blister pack, they could well be contaminated. I don’t know what I’d be getting myself into.
“At the moment I’m desperate to get my hands on anything.”
Miss Dunlop was initially told by her doctor three months ago that there was nothing they could do to combat her confusion, fatigue and foggy memory.
After joining a “thyroid help group” on Facebook, helpful members with the same symptoms as Miss Dunlop pointed her in the right direction of a private specialist based in Reading, which cost her £180 for an appointment.
The specialist prescribed the Northampton woman, who doesn’t work due to her medical conditions, with 28 liothyronine tablets, but Miss Dunlop revealed to the Chronicle and Echo that she is terrified that she will lose her memory because she can’t afford further pills from the UK.
It is understood Mercury Pharma own the copyright for the drug and can manufacturer a month’s supply of tablets for £5.
She added: “Within three weeks of taking the drug, every symptom had gone. It was like somebody turned a light on, yet I’ve been told the NHS cannot prescribe it because it’s too expensive.”
A spokesperson for the NHS said: “The British Thyroid Association does not recommend the routine prescribing of additional liothyronine in any presently available formulation as it is inconsistent with normal physiology. In other words, it is not proven to benefit bodily processes, such as nutrition, movement, reproduction and so on. The advice of Nene CCG is consistent with the views of the British Thyroid Society as the recognised Clinical Experts in this field of medicine.
“We would be happy to contact Ms Dunlop at her earliest convenience to discuss her individual case in more detail.”
Mercury Pharma have been contacted for comment.