[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Although antithyroid drugs (ATD) are widely used in the treatment of Graves' disease, management protocols, especially treatment duration, remain a subject of debate. The rate of relapse after short-term regimens of less than 6 months with ATD at decreasing doses is higher than after longer treatments from 12 to 24 months. As no prospective study has provided data on even longer protocols exceeding 2 years, we conducted a prospective trial to determine potential benefits of a 42-month treatment compared with an 18-month treatment.
The aim of this prospective randomized trial was to compare relapse rates achieved two years after treatment withdrawal in patients who received carbimazole at decreasing doses for 18 months (n = 62) vs 42 months (n = 72). In addition to clinical relapse rate, the percentage of patients who normalized antithyroperoxidase (TPO) antibody and anti-TSH receptor stimulating antibody (TSAb) levels and early iodine uptake at the end of treatment were assessed as outcome criteria.
The relapse rate two years after discontinuation of treatment did not differ significantly in patients treated for 18 months from those treated for 42 months (36% vs 29%, NS). At the end of treatment, there was no significant difference between the two groups in the percentage of anti-TPO positive patients (53% vs 46%, NS) or early iodine uptake (27% vs 21%, NS). Although the percentage of patients with TSAb was significantly lower in the 42-month treatment group (18% vs 42%, P = 0.004) at treatment withdrawal, the percentage of TSAb-positive patients did not significantly decrease between 18 and 42 months in this group (27% vs 18%, NS).
Treatment duration greater than 18 months did not improve remission rate determined 2 years after treatment withdrawal or immunological variables or early iodine uptake measured at the time of discontinuation of treatment. These findings would indicate that, when a defined duration treatment is planned, prolonging treatment beyond 18 months does not provide any additional benefit.