A WOMAN is fighting for access to a vital drug to treat a metabolic disorder.

Christine Papalabropoulos, from Wickford, was diagnosed with an underactive thyroid in March last year.

She was initially prescribed levothyroxine – T4, the drug most commonly prescribed for the condition, but this proved ineffective and it was decided she needed liothyronine or T3, but her GP will not prescribe the drug.

Across the country, hundreds of patients are said to be resorting to acquiring the drug on the internet after a price hike from 19p per tablet to more than £9 a tablet meant clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) declined to provide it at GP surgeries.

In mainland Europe, it ranges from 2p to 26p.

Mrs Papalabropoulos, 62, said: “Many thyroid sufferers are in need of the drug liothyronine to lead a healthy and happy life. Without this drug, the impact on some people’s lives is devastating. Weight gain, exhaustion, brain fog, muscular pain, hair loss and shortness of breath are common.

“I’m hoping NHS England will act on this and ensure that CCGs fund the drug where Levothyroxine isn’t working.”

She added: “Not treating a thyroid condition can cause many other conditions, heart, kidneys and many more. So if the NHS had to treat one of these conditions that had been caused by an underactive thyroid – how much would the cost be?

“For the minority that need to be prescribed liothyronine, I think those who have decided not to make the drug available are being very blinkered in their thinking. Let’s open this up for further debate.”

NHS England advice to clinical commissioning groups is that GPs should not give T3 to any new patient. In “exceptional circumstances”, an NHS endocrinologist may recommend it for patients after a three-month trial.

Rayleigh and Wickford MP Mark Francois has written to the Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group on Mrs Papalabropoulos’ behalf but she is now pinning her hopes on a hospital referral.

She said: “I am going for a second opinion with Dr Rehman Khan, an endocrinologist at Nuffield Hospital in Brentwood. I don’t hold out much hope but I will try. I am also waiting for a response from Mark Francois. Let’s see what they say to him.”

A Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: “The CCG is not able to comment on individual cases.

“A consultation carried out by NHS England concluded that due to the significant costs associated with Liothyronine and the limited evidence to support its routine use in preference to Levothyroxine, this should not be routinely prescribed.

"In the local area discussions with clinicians including GPs and Consultants, it was agreed that patients receiving Liothyronine should be reviewed by a specialist.

"Following this review, if there is a clinical need for Liothyronine then this would be continued by the specialist. This means that  GPs are no longer involved in prescribing Liothyronine.”