Federal Crackdown on Chinese hGH Leads to Huge Profits for Big Pharma

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U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies who manufacture human growth hormone (hGH) have had record sales ever since the federal government cracked down on the import of hGH made by foreign manufacturers. An investigation by the Associated Press into performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) discovered that sales of hGH increased by up to 69% from 2005 to 2012.

In 2006, the United States Department of Justice used anti-terrorism laws to disrupt the illegal distribution of hGH on the black market and by compounding pharmacies during Operation Raw Deal. The former attorney general celebrated the (mis)use of the Patriot act to eliminate Jintropin brand hGH from being circulated in thed United States.

CEO Lei Jin and Genescience Pharmaceuticals (GeneSci) were hit with a federal indictment accusing the company of illegally marketing and distributing hGH to bodybuilders in the United States. The company and its CEO pleaded guilty and agreed to forfeit $7.2 million dollars and contribute $3 million towards promoting steroid-free sports competition.

Jintropin accounted for the majority of hGH sales prior to its removal from the market. The government’s action eliminated competition for U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies such as Genentech, Pfizer and Eli Lilly. Genentech’s hGH products are marketed as Protropin and Nutropin. Pfizer has Genotropin. And Eli Lilly has Humatrope.

Genentech, Pfizer and Eli Lilly reported $400 million, $300 million and $220 million in sales in 2011. Genentech’s revenue is up over 60% since the government cracked down on Jintropin sales.

HGH is such a big seller for Pfizer that its sales eclipse the popular anti-depression drug Zoloft.

According to the AP investigation, the crack down on sales of Jintropin didn’t eliminate the illegal distribution of hGH. The AP’s analysis of sales data suggests almost half of the hGH sold in the United States is prescribed for off-label purposes. While the off-label use of most FDA-approved prescription drugs is legally permitted, the off-label use of hGH is criminally prohibited.

The government’s use of anti-terrorism laws to removed Genescience and Jintropin from the marketplace didn’t stop the illegal use of hGH. It simply allowed U.S.-based manufacturers (“big pharma”) to take over the market and profit from hGH’s off label use.


Caruso, D. (December 21, 2012). AP IMPACT: Big Pharma cashes in on HGH abuse. Retrieved from