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Research News: “Iatrogenic Alzheimer’s disease in recipients of cadaveric pituitary-derived growth hormone”

A paper published this week in Nature Medicine reports the first evidence of Alzheimer’s disease that appears to have been acquired medically, in five people who were treated with cadaver derived human growth hormone as children. This treatment was used between 1959 and 1985 for various causes of short stature and was withdrawn following the recognition that some batches of the hormone were contaminated with prions which had caused CJD in some people. Since this time, synthetic growth hormone has been used.

To read more about the recently published research, which was led by researchers at UCL Institute of Prion Diseases, you can visit the University College London website HERE.

Below are some answers to possible questions people which received cadaver derived human growth hormone treatment may have following the publication of this research, which have been provided to us by the National Prion Clinic.

If you were treated with cadaver derived human growth hormone and have other questions about the research should contact the National Prion Clinic via email ([email protected]) or by telephone (020 7679 5142 or 020 7679 5036). You can also contact them if you feel anxious or distressed in response to the research, or alternatively you can access listening and support from the CJD Support Network. We are here to support you and can be contacted at [email protected] or on 0800 774 7317.

I received cadaveric human growth hormone as a child…

…Will I get Alzheimer’s disease?
Unfortunately it is impossible for this question to be answered with certainty. The researchers have reason to believe that only certain batches of growth hormone can cause Alzheimer’s disease, and they do not know whether all people exposed to contaminated batches will develop Alzheimer’s disease. If you ask your GP to refer you to the National Prion Clinic, they can look into which batches of growth hormone you received. They can also offer an appointment to assess you medically if you would like.

…can I have a test to see if I am infected with Alzheimer’s disease?
The National Prion Clinic do not currently have tests that can predict whether someone will develop Alzheimer’s disease.

…do I have to take special precautions in daily life?
No. There is no evidence that Alzheimer’s disease can be passed between people under the usual circumstances of daily life. People treated with cadaveric human growth hormone are at risk of another disease, called CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), and for this reason are asked not donate blood, organs or tissues, and are advised to inform medical and dental professionals of their increased risk of CJD prior to any procedures. Outside these circumstances, they also do not need take any special precautions.

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