The AP approached every U.S.-authorized manufacturer to ask what efforts they make to market responsibly and prevent abuse. Only one HGH supplier, Novo Nordisk, agreed to an interview.
"We're doing our level best to make sure that the right patients are getting the right medicine at the right time," said company spokesman Ken Inchausti.
He said the company is aware of the abuse issue. He said if patients apply for assistance from the company's patient-support hub, prescriptions will be flagged for review if they are missing the most rigorous test or an endocrinologist's signature. He said the company won't sell HGH directly to doctors accused of bad practices and does not deal with anti-aging clinics.
Representatives of other FDA-approved HGH makers insist they do not encourage use by bodybuilders or athletes or wealthy baby boomers trying to recapture their youth. But some said they are largely powerless to control who uses their medications or why.
"Lilly cannot restrict the actions of distributors, pharmacies or doctors," Eli Lilly spokeswoman Kelley Murphy said in a written statement.
That argument doesn't fly for critics like Dr. Peter Rost, a retired Pfizer executive who filed a whistleblower lawsuit over the HGH marketing practices of Pharmacia, which later merged with Pfizer. He said drug companies are simply looking the other way and betting that their profits will eclipse the cost of any fines.
They view it as "good business," he said.
PEDDLED ON INTERNET
Type "human growth hormone" into any Internet search engine, and it will spit back countless websites with overblown promises of smoother skin, better sex, weight loss and even renewed body organs.
Any doctor who actually prescribes the drug for those purposes is taking a legal risk.