Antithyroid drug regimen for treating Graves' hyperthyroidism.

P. Abraham*, A. Avenell, W. A. Watson, C. M. Park, J. S. Bevan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)


Antithyroid drugs are widely used in the therapy of hyperthyroidism. There are wide variations in the dose, regimen or duration of treatment used by health professionals. To assess the effects of dose, regimen and duration of antithyroid drug therapy for Graves' hyperthyroidism. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (Central), MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS, CINAHL, HEALTHSTAR, Current Controlled Trials and reference lists. We contacted investigators and hand searched conference abstracts. Most recent search: June 2002. Randomised and quasi-randomised trials of antithyroid medication for Graves' hyperthyroidism were used. Trial allocation to included, excluded and awaiting assessment categories was made by consensus. Two reviewers independently extracted data and assessed trial quality. Pooling of data for primary outcomes, and select exploratory analyses were undertaken. Nineteen randomised trials involving 2233 participants were included. Overall the quality of trials as reported was poor; specifically in terms of allocation concealment, assessor blinding and loss to follow-up. Four trials examined the effect of duration of therapy on relapse rates of Graves' hyperthyroidism. In one trial using the Titration regimen, longer duration therapy (18 months) had significantly fewer relapses (37% vs 58%) than six month therapy (Odds ratio (OR) = 0.42, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.18 to 0.96). In one quasi-randomised trial using the Block-Replace regimen, there was no significant difference between the six and 12 month (relapses rates 41% versus 35%) arms of the study. Extending the duration of therapy to over 18 months was not associated with improved relapse rates (Peto OR = 0.75, 95% CI 0.39 to 1.43). Ten trials examined the effect of Block-Replace versus Titration regime. Relapse rates were similar in both groups at 54% in the Block-Replace group and 58% in the Titration group (Peto OR = 0.83, 95% CI 0.63 to 1.10). Participants reporting rashes (11% versus 5%) and withdrawing due to side effects (16% versus 9%) were significantly higher in the Block-Replace group compared to the Titration group respectively. Three studies considered the addition of thyroxine after initial therapy with antithyroid drugs. There was significant heterogeneity between the studies and the difference between the two groups were not significant (Odds ratio = 0.58, 95% CI 0.05 to 6.21). The evidence (based on three studies) suggests that the optimal duration of antithyroid drug therapy for the Titration regimen is 12 to 18 months. The six month Block-Replace regimen was found to be as effective as the 12 month treatment in one quasi-randomised study. The Titration (low dose) regimen had fewer adverse effects than the Block-Replace (high dose) regimen and was no less effective in trials (based on 10 trials) of equal duration. The incidence of hypothyroidism was not reported and there were no deaths in the study populations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCochrane database of systematic reviews (Online)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2003


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