Health Alert: Adrenal Crisis Causes Death in Some People Who Were Treated with hGH

Doctors conducting the follow-up study of individuals treated with hGH looked at causes of death among recipients and found some disturbing news. Many more people have died from a treatable condition called adrenal crisis than from CJD (MaryO’Note: Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). This risk does not affect every recipient. It can affect those who lack other hormones in addition to growth hormone. Please read on to find out if this risk applies to you. Death from adrenal crisis can be prevented.

Adrenal crisis is a serious condition that can cause death in people who lack the pituitary hormone ACTH. ACTH is responsible for regulating the adrenal gland. Often, people are unaware that they lack this hormone and therefore do not know about their risk of adrenal crisis.

Most people who were treated with hGH did not make enough of their own growth hormone. Some of them lacked growth hormone because they had birth defects, tumors or other diseases that cause the pituitary gland to malfunction or shut down. People with those problems frequently lack other key hormones made by the pituitary gland, such as ACTH, which directs the adrenal gland to make cortisol, a hormone necessary for life. Having too little cortisol can be fatal if not properly treated.

Treatment with hGH does not cause adrenal crisis, but because a number of people lacking growth hormone also lack ACTH, adrenal crisis has occurred in some people who were treated with hGH. In earlier updates we have talked about how adrenal crisis can be prevented, but people continue to die from adrenal crisis, which is brought on by lack of cortisol. These deaths can be prevented. Please talk to your doctor about whether you are at risk for adrenal crisis.

  • Why should people treated with hGH know about adrenal crisis? Among the people who received hGH, those who had birth defects, tumors, and other diseases affecting the brain lacked hGH and often, other hormones made by the pituitary gland. A shortage of the hormones that regulate the adrenal glands can cause many health problems. It can also lead to death from adrenal crisis. This tragedy can be prevented.
  • What are adrenal hormones? The pituitary gland makes many hormones, including growth hormone and ACTH, a hormone which signals the adrenal glands to make cortisol, a hormone needed for life. If the adrenal gland doesn’t make enough cortisol, replacement medications must be taken. The most common medicines used for cortisol replacement are:
    • Hydrocortisone
    • Prednisone
    • Dexamethasone
  • What is adrenal crisis? Adrenal hormones are needed for life. The system that pumps blood through the body cannot work during times of physical stress, such as illness or injury, if there is a severe lack of cortisol (or its replacement). People who lack cortisol must take their cortisol replacement medication on a regular basis, and when they are sick or injured, they must take extra cortisol replacement to prevent adrenal crisis. When there is not enough cortisol, adrenal crisis can occur and may rapidly lead to death.
  • What are the symptoms of lack of adrenal hormones? If you don’t have enough cortisol or its replacement, you may have some of these problems:
    • feeling weak
    • feeling tired all the time
    • feeling sick to your stomach
    • vomiting
    • no appetite
    • weight loss

    When someone with adrenal gland problems has weakness, nausea, or vomiting, that person needs immediate emergency treatment to prevent adrenal crisis and possible death.

  • Why are adrenal hormones so important? Cortisol (or its replacement) helps the body respond to stress from infection, injury, or surgery. The normal adrenal gland responds to serious illness by making up to 10 times more cortisol than it usually makes. It automatically makes as much as the body needs. If you are taking a cortisol replacement drug because your body cannot make these hormones, you must increase the cortisol replacement drugs during times of illness, injury, or surgery. Some people make enough cortisol for times when they feel well, but not enough to meet greater needs when they are ill or injured. Those people might not need cortisol replacement every day but may need to take cortisol replacement medication when their body is under stress. Adrenal crisis is extremely serious and can cause death if not treated promptly. Discuss this problem with your doctor to help decide whether you need more medication or other treatment to protect your health.
  • How is adrenal crisis treated? People with adrenal crisis need immediate treatment. Any delay can cause death. When people with adrenal crisis are vomiting or unconscious and cannot take medicine, the hormones can be given as an injection. Getting an injection of adrenal hormones can save your life if you are in adrenal crisis. If you lack the ability to make cortisol naturally, you should carry a medical ID card and wear a Medic-Alert bracelet to tell emergency workers that you lack adrenal hormones and need treatment. This precaution can save your life if you are sick or injured.
  • How can I prevent adrenal crisis?
    • If you are always tired, feel weak, and have lost weight, ask your doctor if you might have a shortage of adrenal hormones.
    • If you take hydrocortisone, prednisone, or dexamethasone, learn how to increase the dose when you become ill.
    • If you are very ill, especially if you are vomiting and cannot take pills, seek emergency medical care immediately. Make sure you have a hydrocortisone injection with you at all times, and make sure that you and those around you (in case you’re not conscious) know how and when to administer the injection.
    • Carry a medical ID card and wear a bracelet telling emergency workers that you have adrenal insufficiency and need cortisol. This way, they can treat you right away if you are injured.

Remember: Some people who lacked growth hormone may also lack cortisol, a hormone necessary for life. Lack of cortisol can cause adrenal crisis, a preventable condition that can cause death if treated improperly. Deaths from adrenal crisis can be prevented if patients and their families recognize the condition and are careful to treat it right away. Adrenal crisis is a medical emergency. Know the symptoms and how to adjust your medication when you are ill. Taking these precautions can save your life.

From https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/national-hormone-pituitary-program/health-alert-adrenal-crisis-causes-death-people-treated-hgh

Study Examines Therapy Options for Post-adrenalectomy Low Glucocorticoid Levels

Hydrocortisone and prednisone have comparable safety and effectiveness when used as glucocorticoid replacement therapy in patients with adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease who underwent adrenalectomy, a new study shows.

The study, “Comparison of hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy of Cushing’s Syndrome,” was published in the journal Oncotarget.

The symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are related to excessive levels of glucocorticoids in our body. Glucocorticoids are a type of steroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland. Consequently, a procedure called adrenalectomy – removal of the adrenal glands – is usually conducted in patients with Cushing’s syndrome.

Unfortunately, adrenalectomy leads to a sharp drop in hormones that are necessary for our bodies. So, post-adrenalectomy glucocorticoid replacement therapy is required for patients.

Hydrocortisone and prednisone are synthetic glucocorticoids that most often are used for glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Treatment with either hydrocortisone or prednisone has proven effective in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. However, few studies have compared the two treatments directly to determine if there are significant advantages of one therapy over another.

Chinese researchers set out to compare the effectiveness and safety of hydrocortisone and prednisone treatments in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, up to six months after undergoing adrenalectomy.

Patients were treated with either hydrocortisone or prednisone starting at day two post-adrenalectomy. The withdrawal schedule varied by individual patients.

At baseline, both groups had similar responses to the adrenalectomy, including the correction of hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), and hypokalemia (low potassium levels). Furthermore, most patients in both groups lost weight and showed significant improvement, as judged by a subjective evaluation questionnaire.

Hydrocortisone did show a significant advantage over prednisone in the improvement of liver function, but its use also was associated with significant swelling of the lower extremities, as compared to prednisone.

Patients in both groups went on to develop adrenal insufficiency (AI) during glucocorticoid withdrawal. However, there were no significant differences in the AI incidence rate – 35 percent in the hydrocortisone group versus 45 percent in the prednisone group. The severity of A also was not significantly different between the groups.

Furthermore, most of the AI symptoms were relieved by going back to the initial doses of the glucocorticoid replacement.

As there were no significant differences between the two treatments, the findings support “the use of both hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy for patients of adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease,” researchers concluded.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2018/01/11/post-adrenalectomy-glucocorticoid-replacement-therapy/

Cortisol Modulator Shows Early Signs of Safety, Efficacy in Healthy Volunteers

The glucocorticoid receptor antagonist CORT125134 is safe and has shown preliminary signs of efficacy in healthy volunteers participating in a Phase 1 trial, say researchers in England.

Their study, “Assessment of Safety, Tolerability, Pharmacokinetics, and Pharmacological Effect of Orally Administered CORT125134: An Adaptive, Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Phase 1 Clinical Study,” appeared in the journal Clinical Pharmacology in Drug Development.”

Cortisol signaling is indirectly controlled by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). When cortisol binds the GR, the receptor becomes activated and migrates to the nucleus, where it regulates the expression of many genes. This influences a myriad of processes, including inflammation, immune response and brain function.

CORT125134, also known as relacorilant, is being developed by Corcept Therapeutics of Menlo Park, California, for Cushing’s disease patients and others who may benefit from it. The drug is a GR antagonist, blocking the receptor’s activity.

In order to evaluate the safety and tolerability of CORT125134, and learn how it behaves in the body, Corcept researchers conduced a Phase 1 trial in healthy subjects.

The British study, conducted at the Quotient Clinical in Nottingham, included 81 adults who received a single ascending-dose of CORT125134 or placebo, and 48 subjects who received multiple-ascending doses of the drug versus placebo.

Single doses were tested in nine distinct groups. Six tested six different doses of CORT125134, one tested a 150 mg dose in subjects receiving a high-fat meal, and two groups included patients receiving prednisone (a well-known GR activator), prednisone plus Korlym (mifepristone), or prednisone plus CORT125134.

Korlym is a medicine approved for Cushing’s  patients with high blood sugar levels due to high cortisol in circulation. But the drug targets the progesterone receptor and is associated with side effects like pregnancy termination and irregular vaginal bleeding.

Multiple doses, given for up to 14 days, were tested in four additional cohorts. Researchers observed that CORT125134 was rapidly absorbed and eliminated, presenting a suitable profile for once-daily dosing.

Efficacy was determined by CORT125134’s ability to counteract the effects of prednisone. In addition, a single dose of 500 mg or multiple dosing with 250 mg had similar effects as those seen with 600 mg of Korlym — the therapeutic dose used for Cushing’s treatments.

Most common treatment-related adverse events reported in the single-ascending dose part of the study were nausea, vomiting and thirst; most were mild. In those given multiple-ascending doses, adverse events included mild musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders, as well as gastrointestinal system disorders.

Multiple 500 mg doses exceeded the maximum tolerated dose, as it led to musculoskeletal symptoms that forced researchers to stop treatment.

“This first-in-human study has demonstrated that CORT125134 is well tolerated following single doses up to 500 mg and repeated doses up to 250 mg once daily for 14 days,” researchers wrote. “Pharmacological activity was confirmed following the administration of a single 500-mg dose and daily administration of 250 mg.”

Corcept is now enrolling participants into a Phase 2 open-label trial (NCT02804750) to evaluate CORT125134 in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. This trial is being conducted in the United States and Europe and will include 80 participants. Top-line results are expected in the first quarter of 2018.

From https://cushingsdiseasenews.com/2017/10/10/phase-1-data-demonstrates-efficacy-safety-of-cort125134-in-healthy-volunteers/

Health Care Expenditure Burden High in Adrenal Insufficiency

Patients with adrenal insufficiency may accrue substantial health care costs and have more hospital stays and outpatient visits compared with healthy controls, according to findings published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.

Candace Gunnarsson, PhD, vice president of health economics and outcomes research at CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting in Cincinnati, and colleagues evaluated data from a U.S.-based payer database on 10,383 patients with adrenal insufficiency to determine the estimated annual health care burden among them.

Participants were divided into groups based on their type of adrenal insufficiency: primary adrenal insufficiency (n = 1,014), adrenal insufficiency secondary to pituitary disease (n = 8,818) or congenital adrenal hyperplasia (n = 551). A group of matched controls was also evaluated for comparison.

Total annual health care expenditures were significantly higher in the primary adrenal insufficiency group ($18,624 vs. $4,320), adrenal insufficiency secondary to pituitary disease group ($32,218 vs. $6,956) and the congenital adrenal hyperplasia group ($7,677 vs. $4,203) compared with controls. The adrenal insufficiency secondary to pituitary disease group had the highest health care expenditure estimated with an incremental health care burden of $25,262, followed by the primary adrenal insufficiency group ($14,304) and the congenital adrenal hyperplasia group ($3,474).

Compared with controls, participants with adrenal insufficiency spent eight to 10 times more days in the hospital and had up to twice as many outpatient visits per year.

“When comparing [adrenal insufficiency] patients within each cohort based on their drug regimen, patients receiving prednisone therapy vs. hydrocortisone therapy had significantly higher total annual expenditures in the [primary adrenal insufficiency] and [congenital adrenal hyperplasia] and significantly lower total expenditures in the [pituitary disease] cohort,” the researchers wrote. “Patients taking only hydrocortisone and meeting the threshold of 50% adherence were found to have lower expenditures when medication adherence was 75% or higher.” – by Amber Cox

Disclosure: Gunnarsson reports being an employee of CTI Clinical Trial and Consulting. Please see the full study for a list of all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.

From http://www.healio.com/endocrinology/adrenal/news/in-the-journals/%7B8f92bd0c-0c72-4902-beb5-663c356a61cb%7D/health-care-expenditure-burden-high-in-adrenal-insufficiency

Causes of Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s syndrome—also referred to as hypercortisolism—is fairly rare. However, researchers have boiled down a few key causes of Cushing’s syndrome, which you’ll read about below.

The cause of Cushing’s syndrome boils down to: Your body is exposed to too much cortisol. There are a few ways that this over-exposure can happen, including taking certain medications and having a tumor on your pituitary gland or adrenal gland.

Can Taking Corticosteroids Cause Cushing’s Disease?
One particular type of medication can cause Cushing’s syndrome: corticosteroids. But rest assured: Not all steroid medications cause Cushing’s syndrome. It’s more common to develop Cushing’s syndrome from steroids you take in pill form or steroids you inject. Steroid creams and steroids you inhale are not common causes of Cushing’s syndrome.

Some steroid medications have the same effect as the hormone cortisol does when produced in your body. But as with an excessive production of cortisol in your body, taking too much corticosteroid medications can, over time, lead to Cushing’s syndrome.

It’s common for people with asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus to take corticosteroids. Prednisone (eg, Deltasone) is an example of a corticosteroid medication.

Other Cushing’s Disease Causes
Your body can over-produce cortisol or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). The pituitary gland secretes ACTH, which is in charge of stimulating the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, and the adrenal glands are responsible for releasing cortisol into the bloodstream.

Cortisol performs important tasks in your body, such as helping to maintain blood pressure and regulate how your body metabolizes proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, so it’s necessary for your body to maintain normal levels of it.

The following can cause excessive production of cortisol or ACTH, leading to Cushing’s syndrome.

  • Pituitary gland tumors: A benign (non-cancerous) tumor of the pituitary gland can secrete an excess amount of ACTH, which can cause Cushing’s syndrome. Also known as pituitary adenomas, benign tumors of the pituitary gland affect women 5 times more often than men.
  • Adrenal gland tumors: A tumor in one of your adrenal glands can lead to Cushing’s syndrome by causing too much cortisol to enter your bloodstream. Most of these tumors are non-cancerous (called adrenal adenomas).

    Cancerous adrenal tumors—called adrenocortical carcinomas—are relatively rare. These types of tumors typically cause extremely high levels of cortisol and very rapid development of symptoms.

  • Other tumors in the body: Certain tumors that develop outside the pituitary gland can also produce ACTH. When this happens, it’s known as ectopic ACTH syndrome. Ectopic means that something is in an abnormal place or position. In this case, only the pituitary gland should produce ACTH, so if there is a tumor producing ACTH and it isn’t located on the pituitary, it’s ectopic.

    It’s unusual to have a tumor that secretes ACTH outside the pituitary. These tumors are usually found in the pancreas, lungs, or thyroid, and they can be benign or malignant (cancerous).

    The most common forms of ACTH-producing tumors are small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 13% of all lung cancer cases, and carcinoid tumors—small, slow-growing tumors that arise from hormone-producing cells in various parts of the body.

  • Familial Cushing’s syndrome: Although it’s rare, Cushing’s syndrome can develop from an inherited tendency to have tumors on one or more of your endocrine glands. Some inherited conditions, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN 1), can involve tumors that over-produce cortisol or ACTH, leading to Cushing’s syndrome.

If you think you could have Cushing’s syndrome or you have questions about the causes of Cushing’s syndrome, talk to your doctor immediately.

Written by | Reviewed by Daniel J. Toft MD, PhD, adapted from  http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/cushings-syndrome/cushings-syndrome-causes

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