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Introduction: The thionamide antithyroid drugs, methimazole (MMI), its pro-drug derivative carbimazole (CMZ), and propylthiouracil (PTU) are the mainstay of treatment for hyperthyroidism in pregnancy. However, antithyroid drugs carry risks of adverse effects that can affect fetal and maternal well-being.Areas covered: This review provides an update on the safety of antithyroid drugs in pregnancy, focusing on the most serious concerns of severe liver disease and congenital anomalies.Expert opinion: PTU-induced liver disease is uncommon but can run a catastrophic course in pregnancy with a risk of liver failure and threats to maternal or fetal survival. Acute pancreatitis is a relatively rare occurrence that has been linked to thionamide use in a handful of reports in non-pregnant individuals. Observational studies on the risk of birth defects with antithyroid drug exposure in pregnancy overall show an increase in birth defect risk with exposure to CMZ/MMI, and to a lesser extent, PTU. Further studies are required to determine whether the currently recommended approach of switching between thionamide drugs in pregnancy improves outcomes. Ultimately, a preventative strategy of offering definitive therapy to hyperthyroid women of childbearing potential offers the best approach to truly reduce the risks of antithyroid drug adverse effects in pregnancy.


Thanuya Francis, Niroshan Francis, John H Lazarus, Onyebuchi E Okosieme. Safety of antithyroid drugs in pregnancy: update and therapy implications. Expert opinion on drug safety. 2020 May;19(5):565-576

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PMID: 32223355

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