The beneficial effects of recombinant human GH (rhGH) therapy in GH deficient (GHD) adults are well-established in the short term. However, data documenting the effects during prolonged follow-up are relatively scarce.
To evaluate the reported effects of rhGH replacement (≥5 years) in GHD adults on biochemical and anthropometric parameters, quality of life (QoL), bone metabolism, muscle strength, serious adverse events and mortality.
We conducted a systematic literature search. Quality assessment of retrieved papers was performed using a quality assessment based on the modified STROBE statement.
We included 23 prospective studies with a rhGH treatment duration ranging from 5 to 15 years. Overall, beneficial effects were reported on QoL, body composition, lipid profile, carotid intima media thickness and bone mineral density. In contrast, the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome, glucose levels, BMI and muscle strength were not, or negatively, influenced. Most of the studies were uncontrolled, lacked the presence of a control group (of non-treated GHD patients), and reported no data on lipid-lowering and anti-diabetic medication. Overall mortality was not increased.
rhGH treatment in adult GHD patients is well-tolerated and positively affects QoL in the long term. However, the metabolic and cardiovascular effects during long-term treatment are variable. The low numbers of long-term studies and studied patients and lack of control data hamper definite statements on the efficacy of prolonged treatment. Therefore continuous monitoring of the effects of rhGH replacement to enable an adequate risk-benefit analysis that may justify prolonged, potentially life-long, treatment is advisable.