Growth Hormone Is Safe for Children with Chronic Renal Failure, Study Confirms

The therapy helps children who have not responded to aggressive nutritional therapy grow.

Growth hormone is safe and effective for infants with chronic renal failure (CRF) who have not responded to aggressive nutritional therapy, according to a new study from researchers at the Hospital Universitario Central de Asturias in Oviedo, Spain, led by Fernando Santos, MD, PhD.

The Spanish-Portuguese multi-center study included 16 infants, all of who were at least a year old, with CRF who had received nutritional therapy but were still experiencing growth retardation. Over the course of the year long study, infants treated with growth hormone grew an average of 5.7 inches, compared to 3.7 inches for children who did not receive growth hormone. Additionally, in what the researchers call an “equally important” finding, growth hormone did not cause any harmful effects, such as early bone maturation, progression of kidney disease, or metabolic abnormalities. Several key indicators of growth and nutrition were consistent between the two groups of children.

The results of the study are especially important in the home countries of the researchers, because growth hormone is not approved for use in children that are two years old or younger in some countries, including Spain and Portugal. By this point, according to Santos, children with CRF may have already experienced a significant delay in growth.

However, the results of the study are equally as important to researchers in countries where growth hormone is approved to treat growth failure, such as the US, because doctors and parents may be reluctant to use it, according to Santos.

"Our study supports early treatment with GH in those infants with CRF who remain growth retarded after achieving good clinical, metabolic and nutritional control," the researchers conclude in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Santos added that further follow-up “would provide interesting data data on the long-term evolution of growth and on the progression of kidney failure.”

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