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Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2014 Sep;78(3):619-29.

Antithyroid drug-related hepatotoxicity in hyperthyroidism patients: a population-based cohort study.



The evidence of hepatotoxicity of antithyroid drugs (ATDs) is limited to case reports or spontaneous reporting. This study aimed to quantify the incidence and comparative risks of hepatotoxicity for methimazole (MMI)/carbimazole (CBM) vs. propylthiouracil (PTU) in a population-based manner.


We conducted a cohort study of hyperthyroidism patients initially receiving MMI/CBM or PTU between 1 January 2004 and 31 December 2008 using the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database. The examined hepatotoxicity consisted of cholestasis, non-infectious hepatitis, acute liver failure and liver transplant, with the incidences and relative risks being quantified by Poisson exact methods and Cox proportional hazard models, respectively.


The study cohort comprised 71 379 ATD initiators, with a median follow-up of 196 days. MMI/CBM vs. PTU users had a higher hepatitis incidence rate (3.17/1000 vs. 1.19/1000 person-years) but a lower incidence of acute liver failure (0.32/1000 vs. 0.68/1000 person-years). The relative risk analysis indicated that any use of MMI/CBM was associated with a 2.89-fold (95% CI 1.81, 4.60) increased hepatitis risk compared with PTU, with the risk increasing to 5.08-fold for high dose MMI/CBM (95% CI 3.15, 8.18). However, any MMI/CBM use vs. PTU was not related to an increased risk of cholestasis (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 1.14, 95% CI 0.40, 3.72) or acute liver failure (adjusted HR 0.54, 95% CI 0.24, 1.22).


MMI/CBM and PTU exert dissimilar incidence rates of hepatotoxicity. Compared to PTU, MMI/CBM are associated in a dose-dependent manner with an increased risk for hepatitis while the risks are similar for acute liver failure and cholestasis.

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