Enthusiasm over the use of growth hormone to slow some of the bone and muscle deterioration of old age has been dampened with the discovery that it causes an "unexpectedly high incidence of side effects," say researchers.
Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri, giving the drug to 14 healthy men and women found that it causes carpal tunnel compression (fluid retention in the wrists), general fluid retention and arthralgia. After eight weeks, half the subjects (all men) had to be taken off the drug.
In an earlier study using similar low doses, the St Louis researchers also observed a number of young and older men developing carpal tunnel syndrome and having to quit the study.
Partly because so many of the study participants had to drop out, the researchers say they have no proof that growth hormone produces "extraordinary immprovements in body composition or greater increments in muscle strength than the placebo recipients." (J Am Med Assoc, 13 October 1993)