Triiodothyronine alongside levothyroxine in the management of hypothyroidism?

Curr Med Res Opin. 2021 Dec;37(12):2099-2106. doi: 10.1080/03007995.2021.1984219. Epub 2021 Oct 12.


The current guideline-based management of hypothyroidism recommends monotherapy with levothyroxine (LT4), titrated to maintain the level of thyrotropin within a euthyroid reference range. This has been successful for most people with hypothyroidism, but a substantial minority still report symptoms of hypothyroidism unexplained by a comorbid medical condition. LT4 is essentially a prodrug for triiodothyronine (T3), the thyroid hormone that acts on target tissues in the brain and the periphery. Thyroid hormone replacement with LT4 alone does not restore physiological tissue levels of thyroid hormones, particularly T3. During the last two decades, much interest has focussed on the potential of combinations of LT4 and T3 to provide a superior outcome to LT4 monotherapy for people with hypothyroidism, especially those with residual symptoms despite thyrotropin-optimized LT4. This review seeks to provide an overview of currently available evidence on combination (LT4 + T3) therapy to be used for personalized medicine in patients with hypothyroidism. A number of randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) have failed to demonstrate superiority for the combination therapy approach, largely due to non-physiological T3 doses. However, patients with hypothyroidism are highly heterogeneous in terms of their residual thyroid function, individual set points for optimal thyroid homeostasis and for the presence or absence of polymorphisms in deiodinase enzymes in tissues that activate and deactivate circulating thyroid hormones. Accordingly, these RCTs may have failed to demonstrate benefits of combination therapy in individual hypothyroid phenotypes. The pharmacokinetics of LT4 and T3 also differ, which is a barrier to their co-administration. Future clinical trials using LT4 + T3 tablets better suited for combination therapy will resolve the outstanding research questions relating to the place of LT4 + T3 combination therapy in the management of hypothyroidism.

Keywords: Triiodothyronine; combination therapy; hypothyroidism; levothyroxine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hypothyroidism* / drug therapy
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine*
  • Triiodothyronine


  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Triiodothyronine
  • Thyrotropin
  • Thyroxine