Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacotherapy of Thionamides in Pregnancy

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Abstract

Hyperthyroidism occurs in approximately 1 in every 1000 to 2000 pregnancies. Although the signs and symptoms of the disease are similar in the pregnant and nonpregnant patient, the complications of hyperthyroidism can have even more profound consequences for the mother and fetus during gestation. These include maternal heart failure, preeclampsia, miscarriage, and preterm labor; as well as fetal loss and low birth weight. Furthermore, thyroid function and laboratory testing for hyperthyroidism are altered in pregnancy. The gestational increase in thyroid size, increased thyroid-binding globulin levels, increased serum total T4 and total T3 levels, and decreased thyroid stimulating hormone levels often confuses the evaluation of the thyroid status in pregnancy. Worldwide, the thionamides—propylthiouracil, methimazole, and carbimazole—have been used in pregnancy for the treatment of hyperthyroidism. However, propylthiouracil has been the drug of choice in the United States because it is believed to have less potential to induce fetal/neonatal hypothyrodism, to cross the placenta and into breast milk to a lesser degree, and to be less teratogenic than methimazole or carbimazole. None of the above have been substantiated in more recent studies. The pharmacokinetics of the thionamides in the pregnant and nonpregnant states, as well as the pharmacotherapeutic recommendation for hyperthyroidism will be reviewed.

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