A PENSIONER campaigning to make a “miracle” drug readily available on the NHS for fellow sufferers of a thyroid disease has been nominated for an award.
Great-grandmother Sheila Turner, of Ickornshaw, Cowling, was almost left wheelchair-bound after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism seven years ago.
Symptoms of the disease include weight gain, hair loss, infertility, fatigue, mood swings, loss of libido, being cold, high cholesterol, memory loss, depression and dementia.
Mrs Turner, an artist who has raised thousands of pounds for charity over the years, was treated on the NHS with synthetic throxine (T4).
But, although the majority of patients respond to the medication, Mrs Turner did not.
She researched her condition on the internet and discovered alternative medication, called Armour thyroid, had been used in the UK until the 1970s, and was still being administered in America . It is made from the thyroid glands of pigs.
Mrs Turner decided to go private and started taking Armour. After just nine days, her life was transformed.
She said: “I had regained my normal health and had not felt so well for years.”
But, Mrs Turner felt she could not afford to pay for the drug for the rest of her life and decided to find out whether it was available on the NHS.
She was turned down by her doctor at Cross Hills Health Centre and a specialist at Airedale Hospital because Armour was unlicensed.
Mrs Turner then wrote to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which gave her facts about Armour.
She passed these on to her endocrinologist who said he would now recommend the drug for her.
But, she claims her GP still refused to prescribe the drug and Mrs Turner said she was asked to leave the surgery. Her new GP now prescribes Armour for her.
It was this experience which drove Mrs Turner to launch an internet support group for fellow sufferers.
The Thyroid Patients’ Advocacy – UK now has around 160 members, one of whom nominated Mrs Turner for a Community Service Volunteers’ Award for Commitment.
Mrs Turner said: “I cried when I got the letter, I just thought it was wonderful that somebody should think to do this.
“There are patients around who are not being treated by the medical profession. A lot of money is being wasted by this nation on not diagnosing and not treating people.
“I am fighting for the treatment of the condition to change and for Armour to be available everywhere on the NHS.
“I have seen someone, who has been bedridden for six years, up and about and walking after taking Armour. The NHS has just got to listen.”
Mrs Turner has written to 760 NHS endocrinologists and all 335 primary care trusts in the UK .
Mrs Turner has also been allocated £4,900 from UnLtd Millennium Award, which will help fund a survey for sufferers on her website: www.tpa-uk.org.uk
Dr Steve Pickles, of Cross Hills Health Centre, said he was unable to comment on Mrs Turner’s claim she was asked to leave the surgery because of patient confidentiality.
He would not even confirm whether she had ever been a patient at the centre.