Some recent media reports have suggested that patients with hypothyroidism may receive no benefit from levothyroxine. Please read our short statement which seeks to clarify some of the facts which were presented.
Following recent headlines in the media suggesting that patients with hypothyroidism may receive no benefit from being treated with synthetic thyroxine (levothyroxine), the BTF wishes to reassure patients and clarify some of the facts relating to the original article that appeared in the BMJ.
- The article's recommendation is that patients who have borderline hypothyroidism (also known as subclinical hypothyroidism), 'would not benefit from treatment with thyroid hormones'. These are patients whose blood tests confirm they have a TSH which is slightly raised but a FT4 level that is still within the normal reference range.
- It is important to note that this recommendation is only for the group of patients with subclinical hypothyroidism and is NOT referring to the majority of patients who have been diagnosed with clinical or ‘overt’ hypothyroidism (which will have been confirmed with a high TSH and a low FT4 level).
- The article also states that 'the guideline does not apply to women who are trying to become pregnant or patients with a TSH of greater than 20mlU/L.' Furthermore it may not apply to patients with severe symptoms or young adults, such as those under 30 years old.
- The advice of the experts is that patients with subclinical hypothyroidism who take levothyroxine do NOT stop taking their thyroxine medication but instead discuss it with their GP at their next routine medication review.
- GPs will only prescribe thyroxine medication if they feel they are of genuine benefit. In patients with subclinical hypothyroidism, GPs will often trial treatment to assess the benefits rather than committing patients to lifelong treatment, which may be unnecessary.
Further information and sources of support can be found on the BTF website and in the BTF information leaflets
The full article in the BMJ can be seen here.