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Thursday, 10 October, 2002, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Fears over growth hormone decision
Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone is an expensive treatment
Adults who say their wellbeing depends on daily injections of growth hormone are anxiously awaiting a decision which could see the treatment withdrawn.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) is expected to deliver guidance soon on the use of the drug in England and Wales.

While it has given the green light to growth hormone for children with stunted development, adults who say they need the drug believe their prescriptions are in jeopardy.


The difference it makes to me is absolutely fundamental

Elizabeth Smith
Treatment costs hundreds of pounds a month, so many current patients would not be able to afford to carry on with it if it became unavailable on the NHS.

Adults may need growth hormone treatment for a variety of reasons.

Approximately 1,750 adults in the UK get the drug - and experts estimate this is only a tiny fraction of those who might benefit from it.

In Sweden, health policy means that virtually all patients with hormone deficiencies of this type are able to get the drug.

A lack of growth hormone in adulthood can increase the risk of osteoporosis and heart problems, and also increase the chance of depression.

Too costly

Elizabeth Smith suffered from a tumour on her pituitary gland - the gland which normally makes the hormone.

Treatment to cure the cancer destroyed the proper function of the gland.

Without the treatment, she says, her quality of life is much lower.

She told the BBC: "There is this fundamental lack of energy and life-limiting fatigue that is with you every single day.

"The difference it makes to me is absolutely fundamental.

"It costs me 600 a month - I can't afford that."

'Wrong move'

Dr Mark Vanderpump, a consultant at the Royal Free Hospital in London, said that any decision to withdraw the treatment would save the NHS money.

He said: "If the decision is going to be negative, they will have made the wrong decision for a great number of people with hormone deficiency."

A spokesman for NICE declined to be interviewed by the BBC, as the appraisal process was not yet over.

Natural human growth hormone has already been withdrawn following fears about contamination with vCJD - but the standard treatment now is synthetically produced.

See also:

23 Jun 98 | Medical notes
26 Jul 02 | Health
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22 May 02 | Health
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