Somatropin therapy in adults with Prader-Willi syndrome

Treat Endocrinol. 2004;3(3):153-60. doi: 10.2165/00024677-200403030-00003.


Prader-Willi syndrome is a complex genetic disorder with a characteristic cognitive, behavioral, and endocrinologic phenotype. Obesity, partial growth hormone (GH) secretion, and hypogonadism are common. Results of several somatropin (GH therapy) studies in children with Prader-Willi syndrome have shown improvement in growth, body composition, physical strength, and agility. GH deficiency in adults without Prader-Willi syndrome is associated with abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, and an unfavorable lipid profile, and the partial state of GH deficiency seen in Prader-Willi syndrome thus renders these patients exposed to a lifelong risk of metabolic diseases. The nongrowth effects of somatropin in children with Prader-Willi syndrome have directed interest towards adults in preventing long-term consequences of GH deficiency, but the potential impact of somatropin therapy in adults with Prader-Willi syndrome is not known in detail. To date, only one study has been published. In this study, 17 patients (9 men and 8 women) with a mean age of 25 years and a mean body mass index of 35 +/- 3.2 kg/m2 were examined. Eleven had the Prader-Willi syndrome genotype. They were treated with somatropin (Genotropin) for 12 months after an initial placebo-controlled period of 6 months. Compared with placebo, somatropin increased insulin-like growth factor-1 levels (p < 0.01) and decreased body fat (p = 0.04). During the 12-month period with somatropin therapy, the mean reduction in body fat was 2.5% (p < 0.01), concomitant with a mean increase in lean body mass of 2.2kg (p < 0.05). Lipid profiles were normal in most patients before treatment and did not change. The oral glucose tolerance test was impaired in one patient at study start and in five patients at 12 months. No patients developed diabetes mellitus. Furthermore, insulin levels remained unchanged, and estimation of insulin resistance by homeostasis model assessment did not disclose any change. Transient adverse effects attributed to water retention occurred in three patients. In conclusion, the one published study of somatropin therapy in adults with Prader-Willi syndrome showed beneficial effects on body composition without pronounced adverse effects. However, further studies are required to establish the definite role and optimal dosage of somatropin, as well as long-term effects, in adults with Prader-Willi syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Prader-Willi Syndrome / metabolism


  • Human Growth Hormone