Major European Country Bans The Use of Puberty Blockers, Cite Safety Concerns

In a significant policy shift, England’s National Health Service (NHS) has implemented a ban on the use of puberty blockers for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The decision comes amidst growing concerns about the safety and efficacy of these drugs, which are medically known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues (GnRHa).

The NHS’s website now clearly states, “Puberty blockers (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone analogues) are not available to children and young people for gender incongruence or gender dysphoria because there is not enough evidence of safety and clinical effectiveness.”

This move follows the NHS’s previous order to close the London-based gender identity clinic at the Tavistock and Portman Trust due to safety concerns. The clinic had been at the center of controversy regarding its treatment practices for children with gender dysphoria.

The decision to restrict the use of puberty blockers is backed by recent research that has highlighted potential risks associated with these drugs.

A 2023 analysis conducted by the University of Essex re-examined a 2021 study from the NHS’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at Tavistock and University College London Hospitals (UCLH).

The original study had concluded that puberty blockers had no impact on the mental health of the 44 children, aged 12 to 15, who were prescribed the drugs over a 36-month period. However, the new analysis revealed that 34% of the participants experienced a decline in mental health while taking the medication.

Ricard NergĂ„rdh, a pediatric endocrinologist and researcher affiliated with Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, expressed his concerns about the use of GnRH analogues in children during an interview with Swedish TV’s Mission Investigate in 2021.

“What we call GnRH treatment is chemical castration. And it can affect mental health in an unintended, undesirable way. So it’s very important that the patient and the patient’s family are informed about this,” he cautioned.

The Karolinska Institute’s systemic review of available medical literature on puberty blockers for children with gender dysphoria concluded that their use should be considered “experimental.”

The review, published in Acta Paediatrica on April 17, found that GnRH analogues delay bone maturation and mineral deposits, which may only be partially restored by age 22 with cross-sex hormones. However, the authors noted that research on this topic is limited.

England’s decision to restrict the use of puberty blockers for children with gender dysphoria aligns with the cautious approach being adopted by several European countries, such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden.

These nations have recognized the need for more comprehensive research and a better understanding of the long-term effects of these drugs on the physical and mental health of young individuals.