Doctor Expresses Skepticism About Over-The-Counter Human Growth Hormone Claims

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The ads look promising – anti-aging, enhanced physical performance, lean muscle, less fat, who wouldn’t want that? Especially without a prescription.

This new product isn’t just a moisturizer or a sunscreen, but a gel containing a homeopathic form of human growth hormone.

A gland in the brain called the pituitary secretes this hormone into the bloodstream. Growth hormone in kids causes bones to lengthen, and contributes to height. If levels are too low, you could be extremely short. If too high, abnormally large, a condition called acromegaly.

“It peaks with adolescence and then declines with age, and that’s a normal, physiologic kind of response,” Allegheny Health Network endocrinologist Dr. Saira Khan said.

At normal adult levels, it helps with metabolism and energy. But a small, short-term study from the 1990s suggests that middle-aged men getting injections of growth hormone to come close to adolescent levels improved their body composition and decreased fat.

Dr. Khan is skeptical.

“It didn’t look at strength, it didn’t look at fatigue, it didn’t look at quality of life,” Dr. Khan said.

Ads online for Dermatropin Transdermal HGH Gel claim it can boost human growth hormone levels by 872%.

“I think there’s no studies to show that they do actually raise growth hormone levels,” says Dr. Khan.

If such an increase were possible, is this really something you want if a decline is normal?

“Having too high levels of growth hormone can cause enlargening of the joints in the hands and the legs in the body. So, a lot of times, those patients complain of carpal tunnel and arthritic pains, and those don’t go away because your joints and cartilage become enlarged. People can also get heart failure, and an enlarged heart. You can get sleep apnea,” Dr. Khan says.

Its manufacturer is touting its safety and that it is FDA registered, but that’s not the same as FDA approved, which involves a step-wise series of studies to prove a product is safe and that it works.

“Really saying something is FDA registered hasn’t gone through that same rigorous process,” Dr. Khan said.

Dr. Khan is also puzzled about the anti-aging claim, because growth hormone does not have any inherent anti-aging effects.

“If you let your doctor know before purchasing something, it’ll save you a lot of grief and a lot of money, I think,” Dr. Khan said.

Good advice, regardless of the product.