Long-term growth hormone replacement therapy in hypopituitary adultsLong-term growth hormone replacement therapy in hypopituitary adults
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Laboratory Experimental Medicine and Pediatrics (LEMP)
Drugs. - London
62(2002):16, p. 2399-2412
University of Antwerp
Growth hormone deficiency (GHD) in the adult has now been fully recognised as a clinical entity characterised by abnormal body composition, osteopenia, impaired quality of life, cardiac dysfunction and an adverse lipid profile. While short-term studies of GH replacement have demonstrated irrefutably a favourable effect on all if not most features of GHD, data on long-term administration spanning more than 2 years are still scarce. Experience of GH replacement up to 5 to 10 years indicate that the beneficial effects on body composition, predominantly a decrease in body fat and an increase in lean mass, is maintained during treatment. Long-term GH therapy also increases muscle strength and exercise performance. All data, with one exception, are consistent with a significant increase in bone mass during prolonged GH therapy. The most distinct effect on bone was observed in the worst affected individuals and in males. Improvement in quality of life is documented shortly after initiation of GH replacement and is maintained during long-term studies. This may explain the reduction in days of sick leave seen during GH therapy. The beneficial effect on cardiovascular risk factors is sustained over a prolonged period of time, revealing a reduction in intima wall thickness, and an improvement in serum lipid levels and clotting parameters. The increase in lipoprotein(a) levels with GH therapy in some studies may be disturbing, but difficulties in measuring this parameter and inconsistencies between the different studies makes it difficult to estimate its real impact. No data are yet available to show that GH replacement will normalise or even improve mortality rate and fracture rate. Adverse events associated with GH replacement therapy are mainly secondary to fluid retention as a result of excess dose administration. This can be adequately prevented by monitoring GH replacement according to serum insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I levels. From what is currently known, GH replacement does not increase the prevalence of diabetes mellitus, and does not induce new neoplasms or recurrence of the primary brain tumour; however, longer follow-up studies are needed to provide definitive answers. In conclusion, it appears not only that long-term GH replacement therapy in adults with GHD is a procedure that can be safely used, but that GH replacement should be considered as a possible life-long therapy in order to maintain its benefits.