People over 80 with slightly reduced thyroid function do not benefit from pills

31 October 2019• NEWSITEM

Swallowing thyroid hormone has no effect on the quality of life of people over 80 with a slightly reduced thyroid function. This is evidenced by an extensive international study by, among others, the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC). The results have been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

To date, it was unclear whether treatment of reduced thyroid function with thyroid hormone is useful in people over 80. "In this international study, with participants from all over the Netherlands, Cork (Ireland), Bern (Switzerland) and Glasgow (United Kingdom), we followed a total of 246 people aged 80 years and over with a slightly reduced thyroid function", says Robert Du Puy, physician-scientist and GP in training at the LUMC. The study is available on the JAMA website.

No difference between thyroid hormone treatment and placebo

The participants took thyroid hormone or a placebo for at least a year. Subsequently, it was examined whether there were differences between the two groups in the quality of life. This includes daily functioning, the functioning of the memory and side effects. No differences were found between the test groups. The study is in line with earlier European research from 2017. This already showed that many elderly people over 65 with slightly reduced thyroid function do not benefit from treatment with thyroid hormone.

Rare study in the elderly at home

The study looked at the quality of life that patients themselves report. "The participants in this study are on average 85 years old. We know that many elderly people at that age consider the quality of life more important than the length of life," says Prof. Jacobijn Gussekloo. For randomized clinical studies people over 80 are rarely included. "Mobility problems, for example, make it difficult for older people to come to a study center. That is why we visited all Dutch participants at home for this study," explains Simon Mooijaart, a senior researcher and internist-geriatric specialist at the LUMC.

Medication can be useful for many or serious complaints

If the functioning of the thyroid gland is greatly reduced, or if there are many complaints, treatment with thyroid hormone can have a positive effect. Patients who want to stop taking a medication should therefore always consult a doctor first. A study to see whether thyroid hormone can be stopped safely with multiple complaints is in the pipeline.

International cooperation

The 80-plus thyroid study was conducted by the Institute for Evidence-based Medicine for the Elderly and funded by ZonMW. Within the study researchers from the Erasmus MC, UMC Groningen, Amsterdam UMC (location AMC) and the LUMC collaborated with international partners within the TRUST study. This is funded by the EU FP7, which includes Bern University, Cork University, Glasgow University, Copenhagen University and the LUMC.

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