June 21, 2006 -- An experimental antiaging drug improves physical function in elderly people.
The finding was reported at this week's International Congress of Neuroendocrinology in Pittsburgh.
The treatment, under development by drug maker Pfizer, makes the body produce more growth hormone. Growth hormone levels decrease with age. This decrease may be why older people have bigger bellies, weaker muscles, and poorer physical function.
The Pfizer product is a growth hormone secretagogue (GHS), taken by mouth. University of Washington researcher George Merriam, MD, and colleagues studied different GHS doses and dose schedules in some 400 men and women aged 65-84. All had mild physical problems that limited their daily function.
Growth Hormone vs. Placebo
Compared with inactive placebo pills, people who took GHS gained significant muscle mass -- on average about 3 pounds. They also did better on tests of physical function: heel-to-toe walking tests and stair climbing.
"These are very encouraging results, and we should examine further whether GHS can help in the long term to mitigate some of the negative effects of agingaging," Merriam said, in a news release. "What we'd like to do is ... [help] people retain more physical mobility and strength as they age instead of deteriorating."
The GHS product from Pfizer is not currently available except in research settings. Pfizer is a WebMD sponsor.