Puberty blockers are drugs that stop the rise in sex hormones that prompts development of secondary sex characteristics. In theory they might give children time to explore their gender identity without the additional distress of their bodies changing. But evidence about outcomes, side effects, and unintended consequences is lacking.
Michael Biggs, an Oxford University sociologist, used freedom of information requests to obtain the early intervention study’s protocol and information sheets for young people and parents, which we have seen.
He has alleged that GIDS has suppressed “negative” data.
We sought the views of methodologists and clinical trial statisticians, but few were prepared to speak publicly for fear of reprisal. However, they noted that the cohort study had no control group; that outcome measures were not well defined; and that there was no definition of what would constitute a serious adverse event. Similar concerns are common to many studies of puberty blockers in young people with gender dysphoria.
The researchers released some preliminary data for 30 of the 44 young people in the study, presented to the Tavistock’s board by Carmichael in 2015 and documented in meeting minutes.11 The researchers flagged up their finding of a “significant increase” in the number of children agreeing to the statement “I deliberately try to hurt or kill myself” after taking puberty blockers for one year.
A 2018 study from the UCLH clinic was presented at a conference in Rome in 2019.13 The 70 12-14 year olds in this retrospective cohort had bone scans over three years after starting puberty blockers. GIDS has said publicly that the published abstract indicated “no actual change” in bone density and “no true fall as initially suspected.”
GIDS interpreted these findings positively: “This confirms that long-term . . . treatment has minimal impacts upon bone health, one of the major concerns about treatment.”15
However, others are not so optimistic. William Malone, an endocrinologist in Idaho with an interest in puberty blockers, says that the drugs seem to halt the rapid increase in bone density that occurs in adolescence.
He said that GIDS’s “conclusion should be the opposite: puberty blockers profoundly inhibit normal bone density development and this should be of great concern to any practitioner using this medication.”
In response to this opinion GIDS said, “There is no evidence that the blocker actively and directly causes loss of bone mineral density, but . . . the expected rise that takes place typically in adolescence is delayed.”