Lupron was approved in 1989 to treat prostate cancer. It cuts off the hormone supply, chemically castrating men. In 1993, the drug was found to be a solution to precocious puberty, when girls under age 8 (and boys under 9) develop breasts and body hair. It shut down the flow of estrogen, halting puberty until years later. An off-label use is to help kids grow taller.
Precocious puberty affects about 2,000 American children each year, yet 24,000 prescriptions were written for the medication in 2015. Many of these were to increase growth, when parents think their children are too small. The drugs cost $20,000 to $40,000 for two years of treatment, an average of $8,300 for a 3-month supply.
The pediatric version of the drug comes with few warnings about long-term side effects. Thousands of parents injected their daughters with this drug to shut down puberty. When the injections are stopped, puberty resumes. Now, more than 10,000 adverse reaction reports have been filed with the FDA from women who took Lupron a decade earlier.
Lupron cuts off a woman’s estrogen supply, removing estradiol which regulates the energy center of the cell, the mitochondria. If the mitochondria breaks down, the nerves break down, and then the muscles break down, and so on.
Twenty-something women who took the drug are now being diagnosed with osteopenia, osteoporosis, chronic pain, blurred vision, cracking teeth, degenerative disc disease, and needing joint replacements. They also struggle with depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Some of the pain is so bad they are unable to walk.
The FDA has yet to issue warnings about pediatric use of the drug. In 2009, an international consortium of pediatricians warned against using the drug to increase height. A 2010 study found seven of 55 children had serious side effects from the drug, but these included deteriorating vision and asthma exacerbation. Side effects not mentioned in the study are bone disorders and fractures.
The FDA continues to review the adverse-event reports and inform the public of safety concerns. In 1999, they examined 6,000 reports about Lupron filed by doctors, patients, and researchers. Despite finding depression, joint pain, and muscle weakness in both men and women, the FDA made no major change other than including these side effects on the drug label. The drug’s risks appear to outweigh the benefits.
Jewett, Christina. “Women Fear Drug They Used To Halt Puberty Led To Health Problems.” News. Kaiser Health News, 2 Feb 2017. Web. 3 Feb 2017.