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New Class of Drugs Treats Growth Disorder

Condition caused by excess hormone

THURSDAY, March 27, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- An innovative drug that prevents an often-fatal condition caused by the body's production of too much growth hormone has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Somavert (pegvisomant) is the first in a new class of drugs called growth hormone receptor antagonists, which block the effects of growth hormone. When the pituitary gland produces too much of the hormone -- usually because of a pituitary tumor -- it can result in a condition called acromegaly, characterized by exaggerated facial features and enlarged hands, feet and jaw.

Other symptoms include joint disorders and swelling in various parts of the body, according to Pharmacia Corp., which manufactures Somavert. Victims are prone to heart and respiratory problems, diabetes, and cancer.

A prominent sufferer of acromegaly was pro-wrestler-turned-actor Andre the Giant, who died in 1993 at age 46. Tens of thousands of people have it worldwide, Pharmacia says.

People who take the drug need to monitor their liver function during the first six months of treatment. Side effects reported during clinical trials included injection site reactions, sweating, headache, and fatigue.

Here is the Pharmacia press release announcing the approval. For more information about acromegaly, visit the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

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