Are bioequivalence studies of levothyroxine sodium formulations in euthyroid volunteers reliable?

Thyroid. 2004 Mar;14(3):191-200. doi: 10.1089/105072504773297867.


Levothyroxine (LT4) has a narrow therapeutic index. Consequently, precise standards for assessing the bioequivalence of different LT4 products are vital. We examined the methodology that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends for comparing the bioavailability of LT4 products, as well as three modifications to correct for endogenous, thyroxine (T4) levels, to determine if the methodology could distinguish LT4 products that differ by 12.5%, 25%, or 33%. With no baseline correction for the endogenous T4 pool, differences in administered LT4 doses that differed by 25%-33% could not be detected (450 microg and 400 microg doses versus 600 microg dose, respectively). The three mathematical correction methods could distinguish the doses that differed by 25% and 33%. None of the correction methods could distinguish dosage strengths that differed by 12.5% (450 microg versus 400 microg). Dose differences within this range are known to result in clinically relevant differences in safety and effectiveness. Methods of analysis of bioequivalence data that do not consider endogenous T4 concentrations confound accurate quantitation and interpretation of LT4 bioavailability. As a result, products inappropriately deemed bioequivalent may put patients at risk for iatrogenic hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. More precise methods for defining bioequivalence are required in order to ensure that LT4 products accepted as bioequivalent will perform equivalently in patients without the need for further monitoring and retitration of their dose.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Reference Values
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Therapeutic Equivalency
  • Thyroxine / administration & dosage
  • Thyroxine / blood
  • Thyroxine / pharmacokinetics*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Thyroxine