New facets of androgen replacement therapy during childhood and adolescence

Alan D Rogol
Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy 2005, 6 (8): 1319-36
The goals of androgen therapy for adolescents are to promote linear growth and secondary sexual characteristics, at the same time as permitting the normal accrual of muscle mass and bone mineral content. Secondary goals are mainly in the psychosocial sphere, in which pubertally delayed boys feel that they look too young, are not considered a 'peer' in their age group and have difficulty competing in athletic endeavours. These goals are irrespective of the causes of delayed pubertal development: constitutional delay of growth and puberty (CDGP), a transient but very common form of pubertal delay and, much less commonly, primary or secondary permanent hypogonadism. Not all boys with CDGP require testosterone therapy, but those that come to a referral practice are likely candidates, as the watchful waiting period has finished. Although a range of androgen preparations is available for adults (injectable, oral, implantable and cutaneous patches and gels), most are drug delivery devices that are appropriate for full adult androgen replacement. These doses are too large for the induction of puberty. Therefore, at present, the injectable form is the only one that is easily adaptable for the increasing amounts of androgen necessary for the various stages of pubertal development. All preparations deliver testosterone that is readily converted to dihydrotestosterone by 5-alpha reductase. The author's practice is to begin with injecting 50-75 mg of one of the long-acting esters (enanthate or cypionate) per month, and gradually escalate to 100-150 mg/month, before changing to twice monthly dosage. As most adolescents have delayed puberty, the therapy is needed for 6-18 months before the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis functions at the late adolescent/adult level in those with CDGP. Those with permanent hypogonadism will require lifelong therapy. Once adequate virilisation is induced, and virtually full adult height is reached, any of the therapies noted above can be used in those permanently hypogonadal, whether primarily or secondarily.

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