Monday, August 03, 2009

Normal at Any Cost

New book of note: Normal at Any Cost: Tall Girls, Short Boys, and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height.

This is the first detailed account of the way in which tall girls and short kids have been experimented on for decades.

The discovery that massive doses of estrogens could stunt a girl's growth, and that human growth hormone could make a child grow faster, turned height into an industry. A cultural disadvantage became a medical problem.

... "Normal at Any Cost" chronicles how genetically engineered growth hormone, a product so profitable and aggressively marketed that it sparked court challenges and criminal prosecutions, launched the biotechnology industry. Yet, there were only a few thousand approved patients. The book describes the scene as, twenty years later, the FDA approved this product for healthy children and ushered in a new era of treating kids for height. Doctors now wield an arsenal that allows them to time and manipulate puberty, as well as to administer a variety of powerful hormones in doses far beyond what is natural or what some of their colleagues believe is safe. All for a few inches in children who have nothing physically wrong with them but where they stand on the growth charts.

"Normal at Any Cost" does what physicians and pharmaceutical companies do not -- follows up some of the tall girls and short boys, now grown women and men, whose lives changed because of these treatments.

As the new age of genetic medicine offers parents and doctors increasing opportunities to alter inherited characteristics, the temptations are only beginning.