Will Stallone's HGH Secret Start a Trend?

Illegal use of human growth hormone has some doctors concerned.

ByABC News
May 15, 2007, 11:52 AM

May 15, 2007 — -- Actor Sylvester Stallone's high-profile admission of bringing vials of restricted growth hormones into Australia has some doctors worried that other aging individuals may also look to this unproven and potentially risky anti-aging elixir.

According to The Associated Press, the 60-year-old star of "Rocky" and "Rambo" fame was accused of bringing the banned substances into Australia after customs personnel found 48 vials of Jintropin, a human growth hormone (HGH) product during a visit to Sydney in February.

HGH is considered by many of its proponents to turn back the clock on aging, building muscle mass and strengthening bones. For those with medical growth hormone deficiencies, shots of HGH are considered legitimate treatment.

However, Dr. Thomas Perls of Boston Medical Center's geriatrics section told ABC News that it is highly unlikely that Stallone was suffering from such a deficiency.

And he says the aging actor's illegal use of the supplement further highlights the problem of high-profile personalities -- including deceased celebrities Anna Nicole Smith and football great Lyle Alzado -- who have pointed to its dubious benefits.

"When you think of people as prominent as Stallone, it really brings the whole issue of growth hormone and its potential risks very out into the open," Perls said.

For those with legitimate prescriptions for HGH, the substance is a reliable and proven treatment for growth hormone deficiency diseases that may be brought about by cancer and other conditions.

However, the hormone has garnered much greater renown for its purported off-label benefits, as evidenced by its prominence and availability over the Internet.

As a result of the anti-aging claims surrounding HGH, researchers estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 healthy American adults used growth hormone shots off-label as an anti-aging therapy in 2004.

"I think society in general equates hormones with youth," Perls said. "You can go online or to some clinics and get this stuff without any follow-up."