San Francisco doctor says growth hormone therapy is covered by insurance only for the shortest 1.2% of all children. Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH) can help children with borderline short stature who have been denied treatment.
Online PR News – 06-June-2012 – San Francisco, CA – San Francisco, CA - For years, doctors have successfully given shorter kids a “leg up” on growth. "Since the 1950’s doctors have used growth hormone to accelerate growth and increase a child’s final height by several inches," says Dr. Karron Power. "For many children, those extra inches make a big difference in their overall quality of life. Studies show that short adults face discrimination. In 1995, The Economist article “Short Guys Finish Last” claimed that fewer than 3% of American CEO’s are shorter than 5’7” and 90% are above average in height. According to a 2004 study by Drs. Judge and Cable, every extra inch of height yields a salary increase of $789 per year. So the extra 3-inches in height gained by treatment can equal almost $100,000 in lifetime salary gain. And there are many less tangible benefits to being taller. Shorter children talk about being bullied at school, isolated during social events, and sidelined in sports. After hearing their stories, it’s easy to see why children and their parents are seeking out treatment. Unfortunately, many of these children are turned away."
Dr. Power says that growth hormone is produced using recombinant DNA technology and is therefore extremely expensive; with costs ranging from $20,000-$30,000 a year for adolescents; consequently its use is restricted to the shortest of the short. "growth hormone therapy is covered by insurance only for the shortest 1.2% of all children – that’s about 300,000 of 25 million American adolescents'" says Dr. Power. "Children who fall between 1.2-5% in height (shorter than 95% of their peers) are sometimes offered treatment – but only if their families can afford to pay out-of-pocket. Those kids in the bottom 10% (shorter than 90% of their peers) may feel equally affected by their short stature, but they routinely denied treatment. They and their families are frustrated by the arbitrary and often inconsistent cut-off heights for treatment."
"One mother tells how her pediatrician refused to refer her son to an endocrinologist. At 16 years of age, her son stood 5’6”, placing him at the 25% for height; yet still shorter than both his parents. After months of pressing, she finally got an appointment with an endocrinologist; only to have her son refused treatment. A hand x-ray showed that her son had nearly reached bone maturation and therefore final height. The doctor determined that “no treatment was needed”, and they were probably too late anyway," says Dr. Power.
However, says Dr. Power, doctors now have another option for increasing growth hormone levels in children and teens that may open the door for children with borderline short stature previously denied treatment. "With traditional therapy, growth hormone levels are increased directly, using injections of growth hormone itself. An alternative is increasing growth hormone levels indirectly, using Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone. Growth Hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. The brain signals the release of growth hormone from the pituitary gland by producing Growth Hormone Releasing Hormone (GHRH). Biochemists have replicated this brain signal, GHRH, and doctors can now prescribe this hormone to increase natural growth hormone production."
Because this hormone can be synthesized without using recombinant DNA technology, it is much less expensive to make. "The medication cost ranges from $3,000-$5,000 a year'" says Dr. Power. "In addition, increasing natural production potentially decreases the risk of over-treatment and negative side effects. Because GHRH therapy provides the benefits of growth hormone replacement at a fraction of the cost and with fewer negative effects, therapy may be offered to a wider range of patients."
The mother above was determined to help son achieve greater heights. She turned to Dr. Karron Power for help. After a long discussion with the 16-year-old, and extensive laboratory testing, Dr. Power decided to treat; “This was a young man who was extremely concerned about his height. At sixteen-and-a-half, he was able to understand the potential risks and benefits and was very motivated to try treatment.”
The mother agreed to pay for her son’s $500/month treatment – "A bargain compared with growth hormone therapy," says Dr. Power. Eight weeks later, her son already stands 5’9” tall. And he says the nightly injections and the growing pains are well worth it. Dr. Power is pleased with the results, but remains cautiously optimistic; “Using GHRH for teens with borderline height is new, and it’s unclear if results like his will be typical," says Dr. Power. "However, this treatment may be a good alternative for adolescents who don’t qualify for, or can’t afford growth hormone treatment”.
Source: Karron Power, M.D., M.P.H. For more information visit www.youthrenewalcenter.com or call 415.785.7995.
About Dr. Karron Power
Karron Power, MD, MPH is board certified under the American Board of Preventive Medicine and is a board diplomat with the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. She is a member of the American Association of Aesthetic Medicine and Surgery, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, the International Hormone Society, the California Academy of Preventive Medicine, and the American Medical Association. Dr. Power graduated from UCSF Medical School and earned a Master's degree in Public Health with an Environmental Health focus from UC Berkeley. Dr. Power has internship, residency, and fellowship training in Internal Medicine, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Dermatology, Aesthetic Medicine and Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.
Dr. Power received a Bachelor's degree in Biology cum laude from Whittier College in 1992. She earned a Master's degree in Public Health with an Environmental Health focus from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating from the University of California, San Francisco Medical School in 1996, she served as Research Fellow in Dermatology. Dr. Power completed internship, residency, and fellowship programs in Internal Medicine and Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and then pursued further training in Aesthetic Medicine and Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. Dr. Power is a past Scholar of the Occupational Physicians' Foundation and the John Stauffer Science Foundation. She has received awards from the Air Resources Board of California and from the Thai Research Foundation for her research in Environmental Medicine. Dr. Power is medical director of the Marin Laser Center and continues to serve as a research physician at the UCSF Human Exposure Laboratory, and as a medical-legal expert in environmental exposure and disease. She practices in Corte Madera and San Francisco, CA.