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Is there a link between human growth hormone and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?

Examining the link between human growth hormone and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)

Cadaveric-derived human growth hormone (HGH) was effective in treating growth failure. Between 1963-85, through the federal government’s National Hormone and Pituitary Program (NHPP), HGH was distributed to 250+ physicians.

In 1985, 3 people who received HGH therapy through the NHPP died of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a rare neurogenerative disease. These cases prompted the federal government to terminate HGH distribution.

Since then, for the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, Westat has been conducting a surveillance study to identify the scope of the CJD problem in recipients of NHPP-provided hormone. Special attention was paid to whether cases started HGH before or after 1977, when a new laboratory purification step was added.

  • The HGH recipients and their families were located and surveyed.
  • Death certificates, medical records, and pathology specimens were reviewed for evidence of CJD.
  • Through the efforts of this study and reports from other sources, 32 confirmed cases of CJD have been identified among NHPP recipients.
  • No cases began treatment after 1977.
  • Westat continues to analyze and report findings related to CJD and other illnesses.

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