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Henry B Burch and David S Cooper

The thionamide antithyroid drugs were discovered in large part following serendipitous observations by a number of investigators in the 1940s who found that sulfhydryl-containing compounds were goitrogenic in animals. This prompted Prof. Edwin B Astwood to pioneer the use of these compounds to treat hyperthyroidism in the early 1940s and to develop the more potent and less toxic drugs that are used today. Despite their simple molecular structure and ease of use, many uncertainties remain, including their mechanism(s) of action, clinical role, optimal use in pregnancy and the prediction and prevention of rare but potentially life-threatening adverse reactions. In this review, we summarize the history of the development of these drugs and outline their current role in the clinical management of patients with hyperthyroidism.