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The use of somatropin (recombinant growth hormone) in children of short stature

Ameeta Mehta, Peter C Hindmarsh
Paediatric Drugs 2002, 4 (1): 37-47
The availability of somatropin [recombinant human growth hormone (GH)] has revolutionized the treatment of short stature resulting from GH deficiency. It is also widely used as an adjunct in the treatment of other disorders which do not fit the definition of classic GH deficiency, such as intrauterine growth restriction, Turner syndrome, healthy children with short stature and skeletal dysplasias. The widespread use and ready availability of GH treatment has prompted questions about its tolerability, rationality, and the psychological effects of long-term treatment, leading to several trials. Early treatment of GH deficiency will allow the child to reach his or her genetic potential, although there continues to be marked variability in the criteria used to diagnose the deficiency, and in the treatment schedule, especially during puberty. Treatment has also been shown to have a beneficial effect on growth in children with chronic renal failure, with no adverse effects on the renal function. There are, however, no long-term data to determine final height, or randomized controlled studies to justify routine use of GH in conditions such as intrauterine growth restriction. It remains controversial in conditions such as Turner syndrome and achondroplasia, where the response to treatment is only moderate. Healthy children with short stature have not been shown to have a psychological disadvantage, again proving difficult to justify prolonged GH treatment for idiopathic short stature. Meticulous monitoring, long-term follow-up to adult or near-adult final height, and well-defined endpoints of treatment need to be better clarified. The metabolic effects of treatment on the patient's lipid profile, bone mineral density, and muscle mass need careful documentation, especially with the high doses used in an already susceptible population such as low birthweight children and those with Turner syndrome. Lastly, the psychosocial impact of GH treatment, financial implications, and cost efficacy of treatment in an ever-increasing list of indications should be taken into consideration for rationalizing its use in future.

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