Mixed Results for
Growth Hormone in HIV Patients

A hormone better
known for illicit use among athletes can help treat
troublesome complications from the AIDS virus, but with
potentially risky side effects, a small study found.

injections of human growth hormone, or HGH, reduced fat
deposits around internal abdominal organs by about

In addition,
hormone shots lowered blood pressure and levels of blood
fats called triglycerides. But they also resulted in
elevated blood sugar levels.

HIV patients
often develop fat deposits and high levels of cholesterol,
triglycerides, and blood sugar, which put them at risk for
heart problems. Doctors believe this results from HIV
drugs and a faulty immune system caused by the

Medicines can
treat some of these complications, but fat buildups, which
can affect other parts of the body, are harder to fix,
although a healthy diet and lots of exercise can help.

The study results
show that human growth hormone could be useful for HIV
patients with abdominal fat accumulations and normal blood
sugar levels, although it's "not a panacea," said
study coauthor Steven Grinspoon of Massachusetts
General Hospital.

He called the
approach experimental and said new AIDS drugs with fewer
side effects are needed.

While there were
fewer side effects with lower doses, Emory University
AIDS expert Jeffrey Lennox called the results
"disappointing." He said they suggest that hormone
shots have limited use at best for treating
HIV-associated fat abnormalities.

The study appears
in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical
and was among reports prepared for
presentation Sunday at the International AIDS Conference in
Mexico City.

The study
involved 55 patients with the AIDS virus who also had low
levels of naturally occurring human growth hormone, a
condition that is relatively common among HIV patients
with abnormal fat deposits. Half gave themselves daily
hormone shots, the other got dummy medicine for 18

versions of HGH have been used by some athletes,
bodybuilders, and anti-aging enthusiasts to enhance muscle
growth and reduce fat. However, its only approved use
is for muscle wasting in AIDS patients and conditions
that impair growth.

EMD Serono Inc.
provided HGH for the study, which was funded by the
National Institutes of Health. Grinspoon has worked as a
consultant for Serono.

In earlier
research, Grinspoon and colleagues used high doses to
successfully treat abnormal HIV-related fat problems, but
the risks, including tissue swelling, outweighed the
benefits. (Lindsey Tanner AP)

Tags: Health, Health

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