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Thursday 20th June 2019

Thyroid drug boosts risk factor in older people

3rd May 2011

A UK expert has warned that there needs to be more research into the area of excess thyroid hormone on bone.

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The comments from Professor Graham Leese at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee come amid suggestions that many elderly people may be taking “excessive” medication for their thyroid problems, increasing their fracture risk.

A synthetic hormone – thyroxine - is given to people whose thyroid glands produce too little naturally.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, Professor Leese said ideal thyroxine doses may vary with age and be “unexpectedly low” in elderly people.

He added: “It is 120 years since the effect of excess thyroid hormone on bone was first described, yet research in this area still lacks funding.

“With the prevalence of treated hypothyroidism increasing, and the annual economic burden of fractures in the United Kingdom currently estimated at £5.1bn, such research warrants a higher priority."

In the same journal, Canadian researchers say having too much thyroxine boosts fracture risk and doses may need to be reduced as people age.

The Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto looked at 213,500 people aged 70 and over who had received at least one prescription for levothyroxine - the synthetic version of thyroxine - between 2002 and 2007.

Participants were grouped into people who were currently on the medication, those who had stopped taking it between 15 and 180 days prior to study and those who had stopped taking it more than 180 days prior.

Just over 10% - 22,236 people - had had at least one fracture during the study period.


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