Paradigm shifts in thyroid hormone replacement therapies for hypothyroidism

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014 Mar;10(3):164-74. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.258. Epub 2014 Jan 14.


Impaired psychological well-being, depression or anxiety are observed in 5-10% of hypothyroid patients receiving levothyroxine, despite normal TSH levels. Such complaints might hypothetically be related to increased free T₄ and decreased free T₃ serum concentrations, which result in the abnormally low free T₄:free T₃ ratios observed in 30% of patients on levothyroxine. Evidence is mounting that levothyroxine monotherapy cannot assure a euthyroid state in all tissues simultaneously, and that normal serum TSH levels in patients receiving levothyroxine reflect pituitary euthyroidism alone. Levothyroxine plus liothyronine combination therapy is gaining in popularity; although the evidence suggests it is generally not superior to levothyroxine monotherapy, in some of the 14 published trials this combination was definitely preferred by patients and associated with improved metabolic profiles. Disappointing results with combination therapy could be related to use of inappropriate levothyroxine and liothyronine doses, resulting in abnormal serum free T₄:free T₃ ratios. Alternatively, its potential benefit might be confined to patients with specific genetic polymorphisms in thyroid hormone transporters and deiodinases that affect the intracellular levels of T₃ available for binding to T₃ receptors. Levothyroxine monotherapy remains the standard treatment for hypothyroidism. However, in selected patients, new guidelines suggest that experimental combination therapy might be considered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / methods*
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy / standards
  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism / drug therapy*
  • Thyroxine / therapeutic use*
  • Triiodothyronine / therapeutic use*


  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyroxine