March 3, 2024

Doctors uneasy over drug for short children

A year after the US pharmaceutical regulator liberalised restrictions on a growth hormone for short but healthy children, prescriptions have increased 38%. But the popular drug, Humatrope, which is made by Eli Lilly, is controversial amongst endocrinologists. Some describe it as a necessary treatment for short children whose self-esteem might be at risk. Others call it cosmetic endocrinology.

The drug is prescribed for extremely short children in mid-puberty who are predicted to be shorter than 4 feet 11 inches as women or 5 feet 3 inches as men. It is not a remedy for the financially- challenged, as it costs between US$20,000 and $40,000 a year. Treatment is an ordeal for children, with injections needed nearly every day. Height gain is also unpredictable, with some kids spurting up 5 inches; others 1 or 2; and others none at all.

Some doctors also question whether short children are really disadvantaged in life. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics reported that shortness was not a good predictor of how well they were liked or how many friends they had.