National Prion Clinic


Cadaveric human growth hormone

Between 1959 and 1985, nearly 2000 individuals in the UK were treated with human growth hormone (hGH) extracted from the pituitary glands of people who had died. This type of growth hormone is sometime called cadaveric growth hormone (c-hGH) or pituitary-derived growth hormone. The treatment was given for severe short stature, particularly growth hormone deficiency, and it was given by several injections per week over months or years.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
In 1985, one of the people treated with this c-hGH died from the rare brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), and a link to the treatments was suspected, so the use of this type of hGH was stopped. Further cases of CJD occurred over subsequent years, and the link was established beyond doubt. Cases occurred in other countries around the world, related to c-hGH produced abroad. Since this type of c-hGH was withdrawn, a synthetic growth hormone has been used and this does not carry this risk of developing CJD. CJD is a prion disease, in which an abnormal or rogue form of a normal body protein causes a progressive and fatal neurological illness. We assume that transmission of this rogue protein was from the pituitaries of the gland donors. This type of CJD is iatrogenic (iCJD), meaning it was caused by a medical accident. You can read more about iCJD here

Our role
The National Prion Clinic provides specific support for recipients of human derived pituitary growth hormone.

Cases of CJD continue to occur, with very long intervals (decades) from the time of treatment to illness onset. There have been 81 cases in the UK up to August 2022. We have been involved with most of these people and their families.

If you need further advice or more information, please contact:
Kirsty McNiven           Kirsty.McNiven@nhs.net
Gargi Banerjee            gargi.banerjee@nhs.net

You can also contact the National Prion Clinic on 020 7679 5142 or 020 7679 5036 and either Kirsty or Gargi will get back to you as soon as they can.

Our Research
We are interested in the long-term health of people who received treatment with human derived pituitary growth hormone. You can find out more about this research here