The rise in growth hormone use among children in China is alarming health experts
Chinese health experts are expressing concern over parents’ growing interest in using synthetic human growth hormones on their children.
Local media outlets quoted The Epoch Times reported that Beijing Children’s Hospital nearly doubled its endocrinologist consultations since July, more than 90 percent of which were parents inquiring about their children’s height. In some cases, parents even directly ask experts to inject their children with “heightening injections”.
The injections, which produce bone growth and development similar to the results of growth hormone naturally produced in humans, are prescribed by experts for children whose growth plates are not properly joined and who are found to be deficient in growth hormone. Treatment is also offered to children with known medical conditions, such as Turner syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome and short bowel syndrome.
The demand for “heightening injections” has become such a growing trend in other parts of China in recent years that health experts are sounding the alarm over the potential abuse of growth hormone prescriptions.
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According to Nikkei Asia, pharmaceutical companies in China have been feeding off this surge in demand from parents. These companies also give discounts, which has resulted in some hospitals prescribing growth hormones to worried parents.
Based on 2019 figures, annual treatments for growth hormone powder injections cost nearly 19,000 yuan (approximately $2,600), liquid injections cost about 42,000 yuan (approximately $5,800), and long-acting injections cost approximately 196,000 yuan (approximately 27 000 USD). Such treatments usually last 2-5 years.
Growing demand has significantly benefited China the largest growth hormone companyGeneScience Pharmaceuticals (GeneSci), which more than quadrupled its annual revenue from 2016 to 2020.
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When parents are turned away by large public hospitals, many reportedly seek prescriptions for growth hormone from private hospitals. Some go so far as to buy the hormone from other channels and inject their children themselves.
dr. Lin Ming, a specialist in the pediatric endocrinology department of Wuhan Union Hospital, complained that parents have become too concerned about their children’s height.
“Only a very small number of people really need to use growth hormone therapy; most children just need a nutritious and balanced diet, enough sleep and proper exercise, and they don’t need growth hormones to increase their height,” Ming told The Epoch Times.
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A case highlighted by the deputy director of Zhejiang University Children’s Hospital, Huang Ke, involved a mother who spent a total of 480,000 yuan (roughly $66,000) on her son’s hormone injections only to have him grow just one centimeter (0.4 inches).
Another couple claimed to have spent over 500,000 yuan (about $69,000) to treat their child with growth hormones for two and a half years.
Experts warn that healthy children should not undergo such expensive treatments since they exist there is no guarantee they will work. For cases where the treatment actually works, the most they can grow is about 4 to 6 centimeters (1.57 inches to 2.36 inches), according to Beijing’s Tsinghua Changgung Hospital.
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Li Sujie, director of pediatrics at the 4th Tianjin Central Hospital, pointed out the risk of improper use of growth hormone since current treatments target those with pathological or idiopathic short stature rather than children within the normal height range.
Beijing’s Tsinghua Changgung Hospital echoed such sentiments and warned parents not to use the treatments as they could cause discomfortother reactions, such as accelerated pubertal development and growth plate fusion.
Experts have warned that improper handling of the dose in healthy children can also result in edema, cardiomyopathy, insulin resistance, stroke, elevated intraocular pressure, arthritis, idiopathic elevated intracranial pressure, and gynecomastia.
Featured image via Huang Yining love + good doctor