Impaired mood, emotions and physical health, that was often left undiagnosed and untreated in patients with a hormone deficiency, may now be treatable with the help of Bundaberg Specialist Consultant Endocrinologist Dr Thomas Ulahannan.
Dr Ulahannan has begun testing and treatment for adults diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency.
While children diagnosed with the deficiency have been receiving treatment through growth hormone replacement, the same drug has not been readily accessible to adults in Australia until this year.
“In adults if you get growth hormone deficiency, there is a whole syndrome of things that you can get. There is a combination of physical and emotional effects,” Dr Ulahannan said.
Dr Ulahannan said when he moved to Australia six years ago, he was amazed the treatment wasn’t available, as it has been given in America and Europe for the past 15-20 years.
“It is something we were doing overseas. When we had pituitary patients, you would investigate them and find out who had Growth Hormone Deficiency and start them on treatment and monitor them,” he said.
“When I came here I found that opportunity wasn’t available. People could get growth hormone privately, but you are talking about thousands of dollars – it’s not an easy thing for people to commit to as it is something that might be lifelong.”
That all changed in December 2018 when the drug was added to the PBS.
“Since that time the difficulty has then been doing the testing, because it is quite a complicated test that takes about three hours. There wasn’t any guidance how to set this test up in a regional area.”
Dr Ulahannan praised the efforts of Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology who had worked closely with him to ensure the test, called a Glucagon Test, would be available in Bundaberg.
Now, patients from Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Hervey Bay are able to be tested for the deficiency.
“We have our first six patients beginning the treatment and these people are going to receive a trial of growth hormone,” he said.
“After one month we do another follow up blood test and questionnaire to ask them how they are feeling and if they are feeling improvement we may continue, increase or adjust the dosage and hopefully we will see an improvement for them.”
While Dr Ulahannan said Growth Hormone Deficiency was rare in adults, it was a benefit to be able to treat patients suffering the effects, who until now, had to live with the sometimes-crippling symptoms.