Merck Supports 8th International Thyroid Awareness Week

Monday, May 23, 2016 General News J E 4

DARMSTADT, Germany, May 23, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

The information contained in this release is not appropriate for audiences in the USA and Canada.

  • International survey reveals the remaining need for raising awareness about thyroid disorders  
  • International awareness campaign tackles the problem of untreated thyroid disorders in children by urging parents to 'catch the butterflies and spot the symptoms of thyroid disorder' 

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced its support of the 8th International Thyroid Awareness Week (ITAW) May 23 to 29, 2016. This year's ITAW campaign addresses undiagnosed or untreated thyroid disorders in the millions of children across the world, who could be unknowingly living with the conditions.[1],[2],[3] A recent international survey commissioned by Merck revealed that 84% of mothers could not correctly identify the most common symptoms of thyroid disorders which, if left untreated, can have a detrimental effect on a child's growth, brain development and general well-being.[4],[5],[6]

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Supported by Merck in partnership with Thyroid Federation International (TFI), ITAW 2016 is titled 'Catching the butterflies: spotting the symptoms of thyroid disorders in children'. The aim of the campaign is to help parents recognize the most common symptoms of thyroid disorders by bringing them to life through two 'Thyroid Butterfly' characters:

Hypo, a slow growing, tired and sluggish blue butterfly representing the symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland).

Hyper, a thin, overly active, fidgety pink butterfly, representing the symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland).

Simon Sturge, Chief Operating Officer at Merck's Biopharma business said: "Merck is delighted to once again partner with TFI for International Thyroid Awareness Week 2016. Together we are working to ensure that the right information is available in a format that is easy for parents to digest, and ultimately that children who display the symptoms get tested. If parents suspect their child is suffering of a thyroid disorder, they should visit a physician and ask for their child to be screened with a simple blood test."

Campaign materials can be accessed via the updated ITAW website (at to provide information on thyroid disorders in children. Available materials include a brochure for parents, an interactive quiz to test their knowledge and a storybook to tell the tale of Hypo and Hyper.

Ashok Bhaseen, President of TFI, said: "We're really proud to have created Hypo and Hyper, to facilitate education around thyroid disorders in a way that resonates with children and their parents. Although thyroid disorders in children are relatively rare, the condition can be very serious if it is allowed to develop unchecked. Whereas in the hands of a healthcare professional thyroid disease can be managed."

The importance of raising awareness of childhood thyroid disorders among mothers was recently reinforced by results of an international survey commissioned by Merck. Data from 1,600 mothers in 16 countries revealed gaps in awareness in three key areas: testing for thyroid disorders, knowledge of the most common symptoms, and communication between mothers and their child's physician.

Key findings from the survey show that almost two-thirds (63%) of all mothers surveyed said that their child had not been tested for a thyroid disorder, rising to 85% among mothers who had no family history of the conditions.[4] Most mothers were not aware of the symptoms of thyroid disorders, with an average of 84% of those surveyed unable to identify the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.[4]

When presented with a list of the most common symptoms, an average of one in five mothers (20%) reported spotting these in their child.[4] However, almost half of the mothers that spotted these symptoms (49%) did not discuss them with a physician.[4]

Overall, almost two thirds (58%) of mothers surveyed said that they had not spoken to a physician about thyroid disorders.[4] This percentage rose steeply to 84% among the mothers who had no family history of thyroid disorders.[4]

ITAW is now an established and highly regarded global awareness campaign endorsed by the American Thyroid Association (ATA), the European Thyroid Association (ETA), and the Chinese Society of Endocrinology (CSE). For more information visit the ITAW website,


  1. Ford G and LaFranchi SH. Screening for congenital hypothyroidism: A worldwide view of strategies. Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab 2014; 28:175-187
  2. Cappa M, Bizzarri C, and Crea F. Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases in Children J Thyroid Res 2011; 2011: 1-13
  3. Counts D and Varma SK. Hypothyroidism in Children. Pediatr Rev 2009; 30:251-258
  4. International market Research Survey commissioned by Merck, February 2016
  5. Child Growth Foundation. Thyroid Disorders A Guide for Parents and Patients Available at: Last accessed April 2016
  6. Bursell JDH and Warner JT. Interpretation of thyroid function in children. Paediatr Child Health 2007; 17:361-366
  7. The Thyroid Foundation of Canada. Thyroid Disease in Children. Available at: Last accessed April 2016
  8. Rovet JF. The role of thyroid hormones for brain development and cognitive function. Endocrin Dev 2014; 26:26-43
  9. Bettendorf M. Thyroid disorders in children from birth to adolescence. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging. 2002; 29 Suppl 2: S439-S446
  10. British Thyroid Foundation. Your Thyroid Gland. Available at: Last accessed April 2016
  11. NHS. Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Available at Last accessed April 2016
  12. NHS. Overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism). Available at Last accessed April 2016

About thyroid disorders in children 

The thyroid gland plays an important role in regulating a child's metabolism and is essential for brain development and growth.[7],[8] The thyroid gland also helps to maintain vital functions of their body such as breathing, circulation and digestion and ensures all organs in their body function properly.[5],[9]

Sometimes the thyroid gland can stop working properly and become overactive, producing too many thyroid hormones (a condition known as hyperthyroidism), or underactive, producing too few thyroid hormones (a condition known as hypothyroidism).[5],[10]

Testing is simple and children benefit greatly from early diagnosis and treatment.[5],[11] Thyroid disorders can, in most cases, be successfully managed and with proper treatment, children should be able to control the symptoms and lead normal, healthy lives.[7],[11],[12]

How common are thyroid disorders in children?  

  • Congenital hypothyroidism (present from birth) occurs in about 1 in every 2,000 - 4,000 babies[1]
  • Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the most common cause of acquired hypothyroidism in children affects 1% - 2% of adolescents globally[3]
  • Hyperthyroidism occurs in 8 of every 1,000,000 children less than 15 years old and in one in every 1,000,000 children less than 4 years old[2]

About the international survey 

The survey was commissioned by Merck in February 2016 to identify mothers' awareness and understanding of thyroid disorders in children. 100 mothers per country were surveyed by Opinion Health, a market research company, across 16 countries. The total sample was 1,600 mothers.

The sample consisted exclusively of mothers above 18 years, with children aged 0-15. The countries covered by the survey are below:


Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Russia

South East Asia 

Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore

Central/South America 

Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico

Middle East 

Saudi Arabia


South Africa

About Thyroid Federation International (TFI)   

Thyroid Federation International first convened in Toronto at the 11th International Thyroid Congress in September 1995. Diana Meltzer Abramsky, who in 1980 founded the Thyroid Foundation of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, first advocated the vision of a world thyroid patient organization to deal with the problems of thyroid disease in a global perspective. Since then the Federation has grown to include thyroid organizations in many parts of the world, including Europe, North and South America, Australia and Japan. TFI is an independent, worldwide network of patient-support organizations. The Federation works together for the benefit of those affected by thyroid disorders by providing information and raising awareness, by encouraging and assisting the formation of patient-oriented groups, and by working closely with the medical professions. TFI has a Medical Advisory Board, which consists of some of the most eminent thyroid specialists in the world. For more information, please visit

All Merck Press Releases are distributed by e-mail at the same time they become available on the Merck Website. Please go to to register online, change your selection or discontinue this service.

About Merck 

Merck is a leading science and technology company in healthcare, life science and performance materials. Around 50,000 employees work to further develop technologies that improve and enhance life - from biopharmaceutical therapies to treat cancer or multiple sclerosis, cutting-edge systems for scientific research and production, to liquid crystals for smartphones and LCD televisions. In 2015, Merck generated sales of € 12.85 billion in 66 countries.

Founded in 1668, Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company. The founding family remains the majority owner of the publicly listed corporate group. Merck, Darmstadt, Germany holds the global rights to the Merck name and brand. The only exceptions are the United States and Canada, where the company operates as EMD Serono, MilliporeSigma and EMD Performance Materials.



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