Trends in the "Off-Label" Use of GnRH Agonists Among Pediatric Patients in the United States

Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2018 Oct;57(12):1432-1435. doi: 10.1177/0009922818787260. Epub 2018 Jul 13.


Background: Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists are FDA approved for the treatment of precocious puberty. The therapy consists of histrelin acetate (Supprelin), a surgically implanted device, or Lupron injections. In recent years, the use of these agents has been extended to include the off-label treatment of children with normally timed puberty. Trends in the off-label use of GnRH agonists in children across the U.S. have not been previously described in the literature.

Methods: We analyzed data on the use of Supprelin and Lupron reported to the Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) from 2013 to 2016 to determine the trends in both the FDA-approved and off-label uses of these medications.

Results: We identified a stable cohort of 39 children's hospitals administering GnRH agonist therapies from 2013 to 2016. During this period, the annual number of children treated with these medications for precocious puberty increased modestly, from 283 to 303; meanwhile, the fraction of children receiving therapy for an off-label indication more than doubled, from 12% (39 of 322 total patients) to 29% (125 of 428 total patients). Privately insured patients were more likely to be treated for an off-label indication (13%; 119 out of 883 patients) than Medicaid patients (8%; 58 out of 706 patients; χ2[1] = 10.97, P = .00093).

Conclusion: From 2013 to 2016, the proportion of children treated with GnRH agonists for an off-label indication notably increased. The number of children treated for precocious puberty modestly increased. Private insurance coverage was associated with higher rates of off-label use.

Keywords: children; histrelin acetate; hormone blockers; leuprolide acetate.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / administration & dosage*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / agonists*
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Humans
  • Leuprolide / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Off-Label Use / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States


  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Leuprolide
  • histrelin