Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK may unnecessarily use drugs for subclinical hypothyroidism, the study warns
- Studies show that patients receiving levothyroxine daily medication have no benefit
- The experts behind the BMJ review examined data from 21 studies
- Common symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism are fatigue and weight gain
Hundreds of thousands of patients with subclinical hypothyroidism are prescribed a drug that offers no benefits, research suggests.
The drug levothyroxine is offered to people with thyroid problems to treat symptoms such as depression, colds, fatigue and muscle aches.
More than 32 million prescriptions for the hormone replacement drug were issued by NHS England last year, but experts have now said it is not necessary for patients with subclinical hypothyroidism and does not help relieve symptoms for these patients.
A study in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) concluded that & # 39; almost all adults & # 39; with subclinical hypothyroidism & # 39; would not benefit from treatment with thyroid hormones & # 39 ;.
Figures from NHS Digital show that in 2018 more than 32 million prescriptions were issued for levothyroxine in England. This has increased from 20,426,378 in 2008
The thyroid gland produces a hormone that helps control energy levels and growth. Common symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism include fatigue, cold sensation, weight gain and depression.
According to the current guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), the condition must be treated with levothyroxine, a tablet for daily use of hormones.
Figures from NHS Digital show that more than 32 million prescriptions were issued for the medicine in England in 2018, compared to 20 426 378 in 2008.
As soon as people use drugs, they usually have a blood test once a year to check their hormone levels.
Experts behind the new BMJ assessment, including from hospitals and universities in Norway, Switzerland, Canada and Belgium, examined data on more than 2000 people from 21 studies.
They said that levothyroxine hormones for adults with subclinical hypothyroidism do not consistently demonstrate clinically relevant benefits for quality of life or thyroid-related symptoms, including depressive symptoms, fatigue and body mass index & # 39 ;.
They advised that the drug is unnecessary for these patients and said that their findings could significantly change the prescribing trends & # 39 ;.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, president of the Royal College of GPs, said the evidence & # 39; powerful & # 39; but patients should not stop taking prescribed medication.
& # 39; Prescription is a core skill for general practitioners and we will always endeavor to take into account the physical, psychological and social factors that may affect a patient before a drug is recommended – and also taking into account relevant clinical guidelines, & # 39; she said.
& # 39; Thyroid hormones are powerful drugs and general practitioners will only prescribe them if we think they are really useful to the person sitting in front of us, especially since it usually means that the tablets are taken and monitored in the long term.
& # 39; If evidence shows that they do not benefit our patients, it is important that we know this and that this is reflected in the clinical guidelines that support our decision making.
& # 39; The authors are creating a powerful case based on emerging evidence, and it is important to include this new research while updating and developing clinical guidelines for the benefit of our patients.
& # 39; It is also important that patients do not suddenly stop taking their thyroxine drugs, but that they discuss this with their doctor at their next routine medication review. & # 39;
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