The Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone Analogue, Tesamorelin, Decreases Muscle Fat and Increases Muscle Area in Adults with HIV

J Frailty Aging. 2019;8(3):154-159. doi: 10.14283/jfa.2018.45.


Background: Tesamorelin, a growth hormone-releasing hormone analogue, decreases visceral adipose tissue in people living with HIV, however, the effects on skeletal muscle fat and area are unknown.

Objectives: The goals of this exploratory secondary analysis were to determine the effects of tesamorelin on muscle quality (density) and quantity (area).

Design: Secondary, exploratory analysis of two previously completed randomized (2:1), clinical trials.

Setting: U.S. and Canadian sites.

Participants: People living with HIV and with abdominal obesity. Tesamorelin participants were restricted to responders (visceral adipose tissue decrease ≥8%).

Intervention: Tesamorelin or placebo.

Measurements: Computed tomography scans (at L4-L5) were used to quantify total and lean density (Hounsfield Units, HU) and area (centimeters2) of four trunk muscle groups using a semi-automatic segmentation image analysis program. Differences between muscle area and density before and after 26 weeks of tesamorelin or placebo treatment were compared and linear regression models were adjusted for baseline and treatment arm.

Results: Tesamorelin responders (n=193) and placebo (n=148) participants with available images were similar at baseline; most were Caucasian (83%) and male (87%). In models adjusted for baseline differences and treatment arm, tesamorelin was associated with significantly greater increases in density of four truncal muscle groups (coefficient 1.56-4.86 Hounsfield units; all p<0.005), and the lean anterolateral/abdominal and rectus muscles (1.39 and 1.78 Hounsfield units; both p<0.005) compared to placebo. Significant increases were also seen in total area of the rectus and psoas muscles (0.44 and 0.46 centimeters2; p<0.005), and in the lean muscle area of all four truncal muscle groups (0.64-1.08 centimeters2; p<0.005).

Conclusions: Among those with clinically significant decrease in visceral adipose tissue on treatment, tesamorelin was effective in increasing skeletal muscle area and density. Long term effectiveness of tesamorelin among people with and without HIV, and the impact of these changes in daily life should be further studied.

Keywords: IGF-1; Muscle quality; frailty; sarcopenia; visceral adipose tissue.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone / pharmacology
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*


  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone
  • tesamorelin