Puberty-Blocking Drug Restricted to Research in Britain

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The National Health Service in Britain stated it would restrict medications that delay puberty to young patients participating in research trials. The shift occurs as the company’s pediatric gender services struggle to meet the demand, which has been rising rapidly. 

In a Document outlining its reasons, the N.H.S. declared that “there is insufficient proof to back up their safety or efficacy in clinical trials as a regularly available treatment.” After months of public feedback, the N.H.S. released a draught of this policy shift in October, but a recent announcement officially implemented the new strategy. The regulation will become operative later this year. 

The modification is part of a more significant movement to restrict young people’s access to gender-specific medical procedures in various nations. Finland has started limiting who can receive gender-related therapies after undertaking evidence reviews, and Sweden has limited the use of hormones and puberty blockers in clinical studies. The National Academy of Medicine of France and a Norwegian health organization have cautioned. 

The New York Times reported that more than 20 Republican-led states in the U.S. have passed legislation outlawing the use of hormones and medications that prevent puberty, with some making it a crime for doctors to provide them. Numerous medical professionals around the nation have criticized the bans, arguing that patients, their families, and their doctors should be the ones to decide which adolescents can get gender-related procedures. 

After an external review revealed that Tavistock Gender Identity and Development Service had failed to adequately care for the rapidly rising number of young people seeking gender treatments, the N.H.S. announced last year that it would close the nation’s only youth gender clinic. Referrals to the clinic had sharply increased, from 250 young individuals in 2011 to 5,000 in 2021. 

In the 1990s, the Netherlands conducted the first trials using puberty blockers on children with gender dysphoria. These drugs affect function by decreasing testosterone and estrogen. The teens reported lower levels of anxiety and despair after taking the drugs, according to the Dutch researchers’ 2011 publication of their initial study involving 70 kids. 

However, 2021 British research on Tavistock patients revealed that blockers did not impact children’s psychological exam results. According to the research, 43 of the 44 participants in the study later decided to begin taking estrogen or testosterone. According to one interpretation of the findings, all were suitable candidates for hormone therapy. However, the figures made the N.H.S. wonder whether the medications accomplished their intended goal of giving teenagers time to reflect. 

According to Dr. Hilary Cass, the pediatrician in charge of the independent review of the N.H.S. gender service, “the most difficult question is whether puberty blockers do indeed provide valuable time for children and young people to consider their options, or whether they effectively “lock in” children and young people to a treatment pathway.” 

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