Treatment of bipolar depression with supraphysiologic doses of levothyroxine: a randomized, placebo-controlled study of comorbid anxiety symptoms

Maximilian Pilhatsch, Thomas J Stamm, Petra Stahl, Ute Lewitzka, Anne Berghöfer, Cathrin Sauer, Michael Gitlin, Mark A. Frye, Peter C. Whybrow, Michael Bauer

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1 Scopus citations


Background: Symptoms of anxiety co-occur in a variety of disorders including in depressive episodes of bipolar disorder and in patients with thyrotoxicosis. Treatment of refractory bipolar disorder with supraphysiologic doses of levothyroxine (L-T4) has been shown to improve the phenotypic expression of the disorder and is associated with an increase of circulating thyroid hormones. However, it might be associated with somatic and mental adverse effects. Here we report the investigation of the influence of treatment with supraphysiologic doses of L-T4 on symptoms of anxiety in patients with refractory bipolar depression. Methods: Post-hoc analysis from a 6-week, multi-center, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the effects of supraphysiologic L-T4 treatment on anxiety symptoms in bipolar depression. Anxiety symptoms were measured weekly with the Hamilton anxiety/somatization factor (HASF) score of the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD) and the State- and Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Results: Treatment of both groups was associated with a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms (p < 0.001) with no statistical difference between groups (LT-4: from 5.9 (SD = 2.0) at baseline to 3.7 (SD = 2.4) at study end; placebo: from 6.1 (SD = 2.4) at baseline to 4.4 (SD = 2.8) at study end; p = 0.717). Severity of anxiety at baseline did not show a statistically significant correlation to the antidepressive effect of treatment with supraphysiologic doses of L-T4 (p = 0.811). Gender did not show an influence on the reduction of anxiety symptoms (females: from 5.6 (SD = 1.7) at baseline to 3.5 (SD = 2.4) at study end; males: from 6.1 (SD = 2.3) at baseline to 4.0 (SD = 2.4) at study end; p = 0.877). Conclusions: This study failed to detect a difference in change of anxiety between bipolar depressed patients treated with supraphysiologic doses of L-T4 or placebo. Comorbid anxiety symptoms should not be considered a limitation for the administration of supraphysiologic doses of L-T4 refractory bipolar depressed patients. Trial registration ClinicalTrials, identifier: NCT01528839. Registered 2 June 2012—Retrospectively registered,

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number21
JournalInternational Journal of Bipolar Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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