Doctors: Thyroid drug can hurt liver, kill kids

April 9, 2009 4:27:14 AM PDT
Medical researchers are warning doctors to stop prescribing a common thyroid drug to children with Graves' disease, the most common cause of an overactive thyroid. The drug, known as PTU, has been used to treat adults and children but the new tests show it can cause liver failure in children.

Drs. Donald Mattison and Scott Rivkees noticed the connection between the drug and liver failure and decided to do some research. They found that complications from PTU claim the lives of five to 10 children a year.

Mattison and Rivkees say only about 8,000 youngsters in the U.S. have the disease so most doctors wouldn't know about the danger. A pediatrician might see only one or two cases in an entire career.

In a letter being published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, they're urging doctors not to prescribe PTU as the initial treatment for children with overactive thyroids. The condition can also be treated with radioactive iodine and surgery.

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