Monday, November 7, 2011

Urgent Request For Information: Hashimoto's Disease

Someone I know has been having health problems for many years, and generally along the lines of hypothyroidism.  The symptoms seem to match up very well the Hashimoto's Disease, an autoimmune system attack on the thyroid gland.  Another acquaintance swears by a nurse practitioner who has treated her for Hashimoto's Disease--but what is a bit strange is:

1. The office will not process any insurance paperwork.
2. She claims that insurance companies regard this as "investigational" and therefore will not pay for any of it.

Hashimoto's Disease is well-established, and hardly out of the mainstream.  It is hard to see how this could qualify as "investigational."  Moreover, both my doctor and what I can find online suggests that the treatment for Hashimoto's Disease is hardly unusual.  This New York Times article indicates use of T4 and T3 is typical.  Similarly, this article indicates use of both T4 and T3.

Maybe I am being too skeptical or paranoid, but when a medical office says stuff like the list above for a disease that is well known, my scam alert detector goes off.


  1. I'm going to speculate that what is being discussed is an "alternative medicine" treatment for Hashimoto's Disease.

    So I suppose this layman would agree with your skepticism. I will point out that the standard treatment for Hashimoto's is just to treat the obvious symptom of hypothyroidism. It doesn't solve the underlying problem that makes the immune system attack the thyroid.

    I'm wondering if the "investigational" treatment is targeting the underlying autoimmune problem instead. Which certainly would be outside the mainstream approach, which would lead me to be skeptical as well.

    I'd suggest your friend get a second opinion. I had a different thyroid problem that went undiagnosed for two years or so, and the best thing I ever did for my health was get it treated.

  2. Your post is rather vague, "regard this as 'investigational'" What is the "this"?

    Anyway, Hashimoto's disease is also known as chronic autoimmune thyroiditis and is the number one cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. In fact, unless there is reason to believe otherwise, we just assume that's what it is.

    The diagnosis is based on TSH and T4 levels which would be high and low respectively. Treatment is levothyroxine (T4) replacement. If that's not adequate to relieve symptoms, then Cytomel (T3) may be added.

    That's pretty much it for the mainstream treatment.

  3. It was vague because what was being told this person was vague, and of course, add secondhand! I am suspicious that this was something in the alternative medicine realm, hence the skepticism from the insurers.

  4. Here's an interesting post (and relevant) from Megan McArdle