Growth Hormone May Protect Bones

Human growth hormone may reduce fracture risk in women with osteoporosis years after treatment


Women who want to give their bones a break may now have another tool in the toolbox.

A new study from Sweden found that, even years after human growth hormone (HGH) treatment, postmenopausal women with osteoporosis had a lower risk of fractures. The hormone also helped women maintain bone density.

"Our study is the largest and longest controlled study of growth hormone treatment for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women to date," said lead study author Emily Krantz, MD, of Södra Älvsborgs Hospital in Sweden, in a press release. "Years after treatment stopped, women who were treated with growth hormone still experienced improved bone density and reduced fracture risk."

David Winter, MD, MSc, president, chairman of the board and chief clinical officer of Baylor's HealthTexas Provider Network, told dailyRx News that osteoporosis treatment with HGH needs more investigation before it can be widely recommended.

"The use of human growth hormone for the treatment of osteoporosis has been investigated and some studies, such as this one, show favorable effects on the prevention of bone fractures," Dr. Winter said. "Side effects can include joint aches, swelling of the tissues, carpal tunnel syndrome, tingling and uncomfortable sensations of the skin and elevated cholesterol."

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs primarily in women. The disease causes the bones to gradually become thinner and more brittle, which can greatly increase the risk of fractures.

While an estimated 10 million US adults have the disease, women are three times more likely than men to experience a fracture related to osteoporosis.

HGH (brand names Genotropin, Saizen, Humatrope, among others) is secreted by the brain's pituitary gland. The hormone controls growth in childhood but, as people age, HGH levels begin to drop.

Past research found that women with osteoporosis had lower levels of HGH than women without osteoporosis. HGH was also found to be lower in women who had not received hormone replacement therapy.

Dr. Krantz and team looked at 80 women between the ages of 50 and 70. All of the women had been diagnosed with osteoporosis, and more than half had already experienced a fracture related to the disease.

Dr. Krantz and team divided the women into three groups. Women in the first group were given a daily injection of 1 unit of HGH. Women in the second group were given a daily injection of 2.5 units of HGH. Women in the third group were given a placebo injection.

Treatment continued for three years. In addition to HGH, the women were given estrogen replacement therapy.

After seven years, the women given the higher dose of growth hormone had better bone mineral density than the other two groups. Bone fractures in the women on HGH also dropped by half.

"The findings indicate the beneficial effects of growth hormone remained long after the treatment ceased," Dr. Krantz said.

This study was published in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.