History of Growth Hormone Medication

The discovery of Growth Hormone Medication (GH) and its use is fascinating. “The tale is crammed with amazing insights as well as striking errors, serendipity, and unsuccessful labors, triumphs, and defeats.”*

The search for GH to be used in GH deficient children began in the 1940’s when researchers discovered GH to be species specific; meaning the only place from which they could obtain GH was from another human brain!

  • 1956 – It took 16 years to discover GH was produced in the pituitary gland.
  • 1958 – First clinical trial was done showing human GH would benefit children who were GH deficient and very short for their age.
  • 1960 – A clear benefit in GH deficient children was elucidated. In response to the demand of GH, the National Pituitary Agency (NPA) was established to oversee the production of GH.
  • 1963-1985 – NPA supervised all GH treatment in the US.
  • 1985 – All GH production was stopped as it was found human brains could transport deadly slow growing viral diseases to children.
  • 1972 – the biochemical structure of GH was discovered. The gene for catalyzing GH was cloned
  • 1981 – the first recombinant GH was synthesized and used successfully.
  • 1985 – FDA approved use of GH in GH deficient children as well as other indications including adults with ‘adult growth hormone deficiency’ and non-deficient GH children with chronic genetic or kidney disease.

With FDA approval, the quest for anti-aging in adults and increased performance in athletes using GH began in full force.

  • 1990 – A landmark study was done by Daniel Rudman MD giving GH to 12 men over 60 yrs old.** He proved in a controlled, randomized study, the men who were given GH had:
    • Increased muscle mass
    • Decreased fat,
    • Increased bone density,

Rudman concluded: the effects of 6 months of human growth hormone on lean body mass and adipose-tissue mass were equivalent in magnitude to the changes incurred during 10-20 years of aging. The overall deterioration of the body that comes with growing old is not inevitable”.**

Since Rudman’s study, thousands of studies have been done on GH.  I often ask myself,’ During my career as an MD,  ‘How did I miss such a monumental study in medicine?, Why has GH never been accepted in traditional medicine or geriatric medicine?’   What a blessing it would be for people to have replete and optimal GH levels to keep them healthy and viable, and decrease chronic disease.  ‘Why did this never happen for the general population? Why are doctors scared to use GH?’