Advances in treatment of active, moderate-to-severe Graves' ophthalmopathy

Wilmar M. Wiersinga

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article*Academicpeer-review


Graves' ophthalmopathy is defined as autoimmune inflammation of extraocular muscles and orbital fat or connective tissue, usually in patients with Graves' disease. About one in 20 patients with Graves' hyperthyroidism has moderate-to-severe Graves' ophthalmopathy. Corticosteroids have been the mainstay of treatment, but new evidence about immune mechanisms has provided a basis to explore other drug classes. Intravenous methylprednisolone pulses are more effective and better tolerated than oral prednisone in the treatment of active, moderate-to-severe Graves' ophthalmopathy. Rituximab has also been suggested as a possible replacement for intravenous corticosteroids. Two randomised controlled trials of rituximab reached seemingly contradictory conclusions-rituximab was not better with respect to the primary outcome (clinical activity score) than placebo in one trial (which, however, was confounded by rather long Graves' ophthalmopathy duration), but was slightly better than intravenous methylprednisolone pulses in the other (disease flare-ups occurred only in the latter group). On the basis of evidence published so far, rituximab cannot replace intravenous methylprednisolone pulses, but could have a role in corticosteroid-resistant cases. Open-label studies of tumour-necrosis-factor-a blockade had limited efficacy, but other studies showed that interleukin-6 receptor antibodies were effective. Results of randomised controlled trials investigating the efficacy of the IGF-1 receptor antibody teprotumumab and the interleukin-6 receptor antibody tocilizumab are expected shortly. Approaches that target the causal mechanism of Graves' ophthalmopathy (antibodies or antagonists that block thyroid-stimulating-hormone receptors) also look promising
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)134-142
JournalLancet. Diabetes and endocrinology
Issue number2
Early online date2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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