Sydney: Cosmetic interest in the controversial anti-ageing growth hormone has swelled by 20 per cent since Rocky star Sylvester Stallone was allegedly caught with the chemical at Sydney airport.
The Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia says its members have fielded an unprecedented number of inquiries about human growth hormone, particularly from men in their 50s and 60s, in the past month.
The specialists say demand was fuelled by publicity arising from Stallone’s February visit to promote his latest film, Rocky Balboa, when he was charged with trying to import 48 vials of the hormone a so-called “anti-ageing” elixir into Australia.
The hormone is produced naturally by the pituitary gland to promote healthy growth, but many claim it enhances movement, sight, hair and general wellbeing when taken in its synthetic form.
It is also claimed to turn fat into muscle and is most well-known for its popularity among body-builders and Chinese swimmers, but scientific studies have yet to firmly establish any of these benefits.
Australian cosmetic surgeons who gathered in Melbourne for their national conference this week say there has been a 15 to 20 per cent increase in inquiries about hormone products in the past month.
Society president Glenn Murray said more people had been taking up the products, primarily to “boost up” levels of the hormone that had dropped off with age.
Both men and women, typically aged in their 50s and 60s, were signing up for the hormone despite there being few long-term studies showing benefits or side-effects, Dr Murray said.
“They’re feeling tired and like they’re looking their age and just want to slow things down,” he said.
“When they’re older and wanting to get a great last 20 years then they’re willing to try it and take some risks for the chance of a better quality of life.”
Dr Michael Zacharia, president of the Australasian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine, said a regular, low dose could “extend youthfulness”.
“It’s not that you’re going to live longer as such but you can prevent a lot of diseases, like cardiovascular disease, from coming along,” Dr Zacharia said.
“An 80-year-old who’s on an anti-ageing regime will look better, feel better and be just as active as he was when he was 60.”
But this is disputed by most in the academic scientific field who say there is a lack of hard science to prove the $500-a-month treatment actually works.
Australian laws prohibit the import of natural and manufactured growth hormones without a permit.
Stallone is required to enter a plea on his case’s next scheduled court date, April 24, but he is excused from attending court if legally represented.