At RLC, It's a Family Affair


RLC Laboratories Headquarters

As part of a continuing series for Natural Thyroid Guide, I wanted to take a look at the different manufacturers of the natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) drugs in the U.S. This first part of the series looks at RLC Labs, makers of Nature-Throid and WP Thyroid. This small, Arizona-based company, owned and managed by the Cox family, is in some ways an odd man out in an industry dominated by multinational pharmaceutical giants.

RLC Labs and the Cox family are part of history of NDT, going back almost 100 years. In 1932, Western Research Laboratories was founded by Dr. William McClymonds to manufacture and distribute the first commercially-prepared and distributed natural desiccated thyroid drug. That drug, Westhroid, was introduced to the market in 1934. In 1981, Dennis Jones/Jones Medical Industries acquired Western Research Laboratories from the McClymonds family. A year later, they released Nature-Throid, a hypoallergenic version of Westhroid.

I had an opportunity to interview RLC founder Rick Cox, who shares his story in his own words.


In 1995, I had a doctor friend who asked me if I would be willing to invest in a small pharmaceutical company. For two years, I turned him down, but fate intervened, when I was diagnosed by the Mayo Clinic with a thyroid condition in 1997. Before starting on treatment, I decided to do my research, and study thyroid medicine in greater depth.


What I found was that NDT actually had a better track record than did synthetic thyroid. The determining factor was there were thousands of recalls for thyroid drugs, and almost all of them were for synthetic levothyroxine, not NDT. I also found there was a bias for and toward synthetic and against NDT, especially among endocrinologists.


I went back to my doctor friend, and asked if he could provide a bottle of the thyroid medication from the company he wanted me to invest in. He had a friend who worked in sales for JMI, and they got me several bottles of Nature-Throid. I took a bottle of Nature-Throid to the doctor at Mayo who had diagnosed me, and asked him about NDT treatment in general, and Nature-Throid specifically.


“This is no good, it’s basically trash,” he said, without batting an eye, and actually threw it in the trash! I retrieved the unopened bottle and asked him what was it about NDT that was a problem, and what he recommended, and why. He told me that levothyroxine drugs, and Synthroid and Levoxyl specifically, were much better and that endocrinologists preferred it.

I told him my dozens of hours of research had revealed there were many more issues with synthetic levothyroxine than NDT, and pointed out the thousands of levothyroxine recalls, compared to just a handful of NDT recalls. He was unmoved.


I told him I wouldn’t be taking his advice, as he wasn’t basing his recommendation on facts. And unfortunately, his attitude is one you still commonly find in doctors across the U.S. I went instead to a naturopathic physician, and was given the same diagnosis. This doctor, however, felt that NDT was the better treatment, and that Nature-Throid was a quality medication.


At that point, not only did I start taking Nature-Throid, but within a year, my wife Judy and I purchased the company in 1998, along with my partners – my doctor friend, and his JMI sales manager. For almost a decade, we worked together to continue to produce high-quality Nature-throid for the hypothyroid patient community.


My partners left to launch a new venture in 2005, and at that point, we changed the name to RLC Laboratories – the C is for Cox – and became a truly family-run business, with my daughters Riki and Lindsay helping to run the company. Our RLC family also included all the members of our small and dedicated staff, including our Chief Science Officer, Dai Jinn and sales guru Erin Spong. It was this close and committed team that worked tirelessly to continue producing, distributing, and marketing Nature-Throid, and in 2013, launched our newest NDT medication, WP Thyroid.


Judy Cox (left), Riki Cox Sadler (center), and Rick Cox (right)

One of the unique aspects of our company is that all of us are hypothyroid! We are not just a pharmaceutical company; we are also hypothyroidism patients! That gives us tremendous insight into the patient experience, and makes us especially passionate about our shared goal: to provide patients like ourselves a medication that provides true quality of life and optimal wellness.”


Finally, I asked Rick if being a small, family-run business in a sea of big pharma giants is a challenge.


“It’s been very challenging, to say the least. In some cases, our competitors have tried to put us out of business, or force us to raise prices. While daunting, we have been able to overcome every challenge we’ve faced. And our history – which includes decades without any recalls, and a growing base of satisfied thyroid patients -- speaks for itself. In the end, at RLC, we do what we because we believe in providing the finest thyroid medication, one that will provide a better quality of life at an affordable cost.”


Check back for future interviews and profiles of NDT manufacturers, and coverage of the NDT market!