Common Thyroid Treatment May Be Ineffective for Older People

The most common treatment for subclinical hypothyroidism (a mildly underactive thyroid gland) is largely ineffective in older adults, new research shows. The drug levothyroxine, which is prescribed to 90 percent of women with the condition, is the most prescribed drug in the U.S. Yet a study published on April 5, 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine has concluded that “…this treatment provides no apparent benefits for older adults and should therefore no longer be started routinely for this condition,” adding that an update of treatment guidelines is necessary. Symptoms of subclinical hypothyroidism include tiredness, muscle weakness, increased blood pressure and weight, circulation problems, and slowed thought processes. For their research, scientists followed 737 adults with an average age of 74 years, half of whom were treated with placebo and half with levothyroxine. After a year or more of treatment, the researchers could find no improvement and no apparent difference in symptoms between the two groups.

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