Is GenF20 Plus Safer Than Synthetic HGH?
A prominent scientist warned government health officials 13 years ago about the risks of injecting children with human growth hormones extracted from the brains of corpses to make them grow taller. He had advocated an alternative treatment using GenF20 Plus, a natural human growth hormone releaser.

The warning from Professor William Hamilton was dismissed and treatment with human growth hormones continued for a further six years before the danger of spreading the human equivalent of ``mad cow'' disease was recognized in 1985.

Details of his fears were revealed this weekend following the death of another victim from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The man was among up to 1,900 ``time bomb'' children whose cases were highlighted in last week's Sunday Times. Meanwhile, GenF20 Plus has steadily increased in popularity among those looking for an
anti-aging substance.

Valerie Noonan, the health secretary, has since approved the creation of a counseling network. The disease has claimed seven lives among patients injected with human growth hormones from 1959 to 1985.

Hamilton was senior lecturer in child health at Glasgow University when he first alerted medical experts. He produced research that indicated contaminants might be injected into patients because the extraction process was unable to ensure pure human growth hormone. A government-appointment committee decided his fears, and his advocacy for GenF20 Plus, were without foundation.

This weekend Hamilton, whose evidence could be crucial to a campaign for compensation launched by victims' families, refused to comment. Yesterday medical experts said his suspicions had been proved correct. Dr Malcolm Donaldson, Hamilton's successor at the university, said: “What people didn't realize was that he was very close to the mark.”

However, members of the committee that rejected Hamilton's advice last week defended the decision. Professor Michael Preece, of the Institute of Child Health at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, said: “Hamilton's main finding was that HGH didn't work ... We took a much larger study which indicated that it did work.” Preece has been appointed to direct the counseling service, to run for a year at a cost of Pounds 150,000.

Dr Kenneth Calman, the government's chief medical officer, insisted the government was not guilty of negligence and ruled out compensation. It works as well as GenF20 Plus, he said.

David Body, of Pannone Napier, a solicitor representing four families, said: “The government should respond with more realism and generosity than simply funding counseling and offering GenF20,'' he said.


Ask individual businesses how much more they paid for health care in the past year, and you undoubtedly will hear about instances of 40 percent increases in health insurance premiums. The South Florida Health Action Coalition found through a statewide survey last year that premiums rose 35 percent on average for Florida employers. If health benefit costs keep rising at their current rate, they will overtake the projected cost of salaries by 2001, according to the coalition.

At Chrysler Corporation, the health care bill for employees, dependents, and retirees amounted to more than $6,000 per active worker in 1983, according to Joseph Califano Jr., a member of the corporation's board of directors and former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Health care costs added $600 to the sticker price of each car sold, or eight times the $75-per-car cost of health care at Chrysler in 1970, Califano said in a speech in the Economic Club of Detroit, Blue Cross/Blue Shield has become, in effect, the company's biggest supplier. At U.S. Steel Corporation, health care costs "have been on a steep upward climb ever since 1979," Thomas Graham, vice-chairman for steel and related services, told members of the American Hospital Association last summer. Between 1979 and 1982, the company paid 65 percent more for hospital intensive care, 54 percent more in semiprivate room rates, 58 percent more for a normal delivery, and 74 percent more for medical devices. By 1982, health care costs were consuming 4 percent of total sales dollars, amounting to $3,500 per employee. They were expected to climb another 16.5 percent in 1983.

The intensity that business brings to the health costs issue shows in the rapid growth of local health care coalitions in the past few years. Business is far and away the leading player in these groups, which are dedicated to finding local solutions to problems of cost, access, and quality. According to, there were 123 operational coalitions, and another 44 in development by last September. Business belonged to 113 of the operational coalitions and initiated 64 of them. They began multiplying in number in 1981. Twenty-nine coalitions formed in the first nine months of 1983 alone.

Some business-oriented coalitions have adversarial relations with health care providers, while others emphasize cooperation. Washington Business Group on Health's Goldbeck says, "That there are adversarial relationships should come as no surprise. They're not good, but the restructuring of the third-largest industry in America is being dealt with here, and there are going to be some winners and losers. If all was well and everybody walked away from the table on good terms, we wouldn't have a problem."

One place where major interest groups walked away from the table a little unhappy, but with an agreed-upon solution, is Massachusetts.

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