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Long-term study shows growth hormone reduces risk of osteoporosis fractures

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Growth hormone treatment reduces the risk of osteoporosis fractures in older women, according to new research published in the Endocrine Society´s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The decade-long Swedish study found that, for years after it was administered, growth hormone continued to reduce the risk of fractures and helped maintain bone density in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.

“Our study is the largest and longest controlled study of growth hormone treatment for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women to date,” said one of the study´s authors, Dr. Emily Krantz, of Södra Älvsborgs Hospital in Borås, Sweden. “Years after treatment stopped, women who were treated with growth hormone still experienced improved bone density and reduced fracture risk.”

Researchers recruited 80 women with osteoporosis, aged between 50 and 70, for an 18-month-long randomised, double-blind trial. Participants received daily injections of either placebo, a single unit of growth hormone or a 2.5-unit dose of growth hormone.

After 18 months, injections were halted for the women receiving the placebo. The others continued to receive injections for another 18 months.

Over the longer term, the researchers followed up with the women for seven years after growth hormone treatment was halted to monitor their bone density, fractures and perception of their quality of life.

Participants´ bone density and rate of fractures were compared to those of a control group of 120 women who did not have osteoporosis.

Results ten years after the study began showed that the women who received the larger dose of growth hormone 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 declined by half over the decade, from 56% to 28%. In the control group the rate of fractures rose four-fold, from 8% to 32%, as some of those women were diagnosed with osteoporosis.

There was no effect on quality of life from growth hormone treatment, but the researchers concluded that the treatment was beneficial for bone and fracture outcome after ten years.

“The findings indicate the beneficial effects of growth hormone remained long after the treatment ceased,” Dr. Krantz added.