The safety profile of GH replacement therapy in adults

Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1997 Apr;46(4):473-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2265.1997.1660984.x.


Objective: The benefits of GH replacement in GH-deficient adult patients are becoming accepted but the safety profile continues to be defined. The GH deficiency in adults may have arisen i either childhood or during adult life and these two groups differ with regard to history of disease. The aid of the present report was to study differences in safety profile between these two groups during long-term replacement therapy with recombinant human GH (hGH). Possible factors which placed a patient at risk of experiencing an adverse event were also examined.

Patients and design: GH-deficient adult patients were randomized into two study protocols, differing only in age of onset of the GH deficiency syndrome. There were 98 patients with adult-onset and 67 patients with childhood-onset GH deficiency. Each study consisted of a 6-month double-blind placebo-controlled phase followed by an open-label hGH treatment phase. Glucose tolerance, incidence of treatment-emergent adverse events and relationship to IGF status were studied throughout the 36 months of treatment.

Results: Human growth hormone-related adverse events were reported less commonly in childhood-onset patients compared with adult-onset patients. Adult-onset patients who continued into the open-label therapy phase reported an increased incidence of arthralgia, myalgia and paraesthesia. There were significant increases in fasting glucose with hGH therapy but values remained within the normal range. Hypertension was reported in 7.7% of adult-onset patients at 18 months of hGH, which was within the expected prevalence for the number of patients, but was not reported for any childhood-onset patients. Only in adult-onset patients were sufficient adverse events reported to enable analysis of risk factors. Patients reporting hGH-related adverse events were significantly heavier and, therefore, received more hGH. There was a significantly greater increase in IGF-I and IGFBP-3 in the first month in patients who experienced hGH-related adverse events compared with those who did not.

Conclusion: The risks of replacement therapy with hGH in GH-deficient adults varied with pathogenesis of disease; hGH-related adverse events occurred more frequently in patients with adult-onset compared with those childhood-onset GH deficiency. In the adult-onset patients there was an increased risk of adverse events in heavier patients and those who had the greatest increases in IGF-I and IGFBP-3 at 1 month of therapy.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age of Onset
  • Arthralgia / chemically induced
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Growth Hormone / deficiency*
  • Human Growth Hormone / adverse effects*
  • Human Growth Hormone / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Pain / chemically induced
  • Paresthesia / chemically induced
  • Somatomedins / metabolism


  • Blood Glucose
  • Somatomedins
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Growth Hormone