Thyroid drug tied to birth defects — once again

Another study has linked the Graves’ disease treatment methimazole with birth defects, Japanese researchers reported…

In an interim analysis of the prospective POEM study, there was a far higher incidence of methimazole embryopathy in women who took the drug during their first trimester than would be expected in the general population…according to Naoko Arata, PhD, of the National Center for Child Health and Development in Tokyo.

Women shouldn’t use the drug in those early stages of pregnancy when the fetus is developing organs, she said at the American Thyroid Association meeting.

Most recommendations instruct clinicians to stop methimazole during pregnancy because of earlier associations with birth defects. These women should instead be treated with propylthiouracil (PTU), the guidelines state.

But PTU has been associated with liver injury to the mother and more recent research suggests that it may also carry risk of birth defects.

Indeed, at last year’s ATA meeting, Danish researchers reported that both drugs carried a higher risk of birth defects: 50% higher for PTU and 75% higher for methimazole compared with the general population…

When the fifth case of methimazole-related anomalies was reported in 2011 — out of a total of 85 live births — the researchers decided to conduct an interim analysis.

Arata said these five cases had exposure to methimazole during the whole pregnancy…

She said she strongly recommends not using methimazole during the organogenesis period in women with Graves’ disease, adding that preconception counseling is extremely important.

I hope enough doctors read about questions raised by studies like this. Even though I have a young, sharp, physician as my GP – I always make it a practice when in his office for a checkup to waylay him with a couple of the medical questions, procedures, studies and discoveries I’ve covered for one or another blog – just to see if he’s staying broadly up-to-date.

I would hate to know more than he does, even if it concerns a very small area of interest. I already qualify as a world-class hypochondriac. 🙂

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