Growth hormone treatment has sustained effects against problems associated with osteoporosis for years after it is stopped in postmenopausal women, suggests a new trial.
The authors of the study believe it is the largest and longest controlled study with growth hormone treatment in postmenopausal osteoporosis. Dr. Emily Krantz, of Södra Älvsborgs Hospital in Borås, Sweden, says:
"Years after treatment stopped, women who were treated with growth hormone still experienced improved bone density and reduced fracture risk."
Osteoporosis is a progressive condition in which bones become weak and liable to fracture.
More than 10 million American adults have osteoporosis and, according to the Endocrine Society, 80% of people treated in the US are women; they are three times more likely than men to have an osteoporosis-related bone fracture in their lifetime.
Over the course of 18 months, 80 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis received daily injections of either a placebo, a single unit of growth hormone or a 2.5-unit dose of growth hormone in the randomized, double-blind trial.
The results are published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
The women were between the ages of 50 and 70 when they were recruited, and they were followed up over the decade of the full study.
Women on placebo stopped the injections after 18 months, while those randomized to growth hormone continued injections for a further 18 months.
Larger growth hormone dose preserved bone mineral density
The researchers continued to follow up the women for 7 years after the growth hormone treatment was halted, monitoring bone density, fractures and perceptions of quality of life.
The researchers compared the participants' bone density and rate of fractures with those of a group of 120 women who did not have osteoporosis.
A decade after the study began, the women who received the larger growth hormone dose still had higher bone mineral density levels than the participants who received the lower dose or the placebo.
The rate of fractures in the treated women who had osteoporosis fell by half during the 10-year study.
In contrast, the rate of fractures rose four-fold in the control group as some of those women were diagnosed with osteoporosis.
Dr. Krantz says:
"The findings indicate the beneficial effects of growth hormone remained long after the treatment ceased."
In June, Medical News Today reported on a study in which researchers discovered a way to boost bone-forming cells, paving the way for new treatments for osteoporosis.