Growth Hormone Gamble: Risk Health for Promise of Youth?

The human growth hormone business is a $2 billion industry.


Feb. 12, 2008— -- Marie Miano, like some professional athletes, takes human growth hormone — but she has a prescription.

"I feel like a fountain of youth because I feel better than I did before. I feel younger, I feel healthier." she said.

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At 54, she started growth hormone injections after reading actress Suzanne Sommers' book — just one Hollywood celebrity sold on HGH.

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Actor Sylvester Stallone freely admits he used the hormone as he prepared for his latest Rambo movie.

"The way people think of HGH is archaic," the actor said on the Today Show.

"One of the dangers of the athletes or entertainers taking this stuff is providing a very bad example for all these young people certainly," Dr. Tom Perls of Boston University Medical Center said. "Not just a danger to their bodies, it's a huge danger to their pocketbook."

But the hormone is only approved for a few rare ailments. Still, up to 30,000 healthy Americans are taking it, with anti-aging clinics across the country prescribing daily injections.

Read about Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency.

One Beverly Hills doctor's Web site promotes HGH with the phrase "Reverse the effect of aging."

Dr. Andre Berger of the Anti-Aging Clinic said, "It is not a miracle drug but it can be amazingly helpful. It can do wonderful things for people who need it."

Ads in bodybuilder magazines suggest HGH can build muscles. Athletes believe it speeds recovery from injuries. But do a quick search on the Internet, and thousands of pages pop up promoting human growth hormone for all sorts of reasons.

"It is really no different from the snake oil stuff we saw from the early 1900." Dr. Perls said.

Members of Congress are concerned. The day before asking star pitcher Roger Clemens if he took growth hormone in violation of the law and Major League Baseball rules, Congressional members heard experts describe the growth hormone industry as a $2 billion industry run by hucksters.

Marie Miano says she's willing to gamble. "If I can live it in a healthy and well-feeling state, then that is what I choose for myself," she said.

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