Robert Blizzard, Who Gave Children Hormones to Grow, Dies at 94


Dr. Blizzard’s successful growth hormone campaign was dealt a blow in 1984 when a patient in California who had been treated years earlier with growth hormone died of a rare brain disease at age 20.

Dr. Blizzard and the federal Food and Drug Administration were notified of the death by Dr. Ray Hintz, a pediatrician at Stanford University, who worried that the growth hormone had transmitted the illness, Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, or C.J.D.

Dr. Blizzard dismissed those fears and was one of a few doctors to oppose a ban on human growth hormone. Within a few months, however, an additional two growth-hormone patients died of C.J.D., one of them a patient of Dr. Blizzard’s. That prompted medical experts to meet again, leading Dr. Blizzard to advocate for a ban on the use of human growth hormone except for those who needed it to survive.

The F.D.A. banned human growth hormone in 1985 and, about the same time, approved a recombinant version made by Genentech. It rocketed the company from a small start-up into a major biotechnology company.

Dr. Blizzard said that the fatal brain disease C.J.D. was not known among pediatric endocrinologists when human growth hormone growth therapy was introduced, and he continued to believe that it did more good than harm. So far, according to the National Institutes of Health, C.J.D. has been detected in 33 of about 7,700 children treated with human growth hormone.

Dr. Blizzard, who had lived in Charlottesville for 45 years, is survived by his wife of 22 years, Polly (Moore) Blizzard; a daughter, Janice L. Blizzard; a son, R. Steven Blizzard; two stepchildren, Edward C. Wilson Jr. and Elisabeth W. Gordon; and eight grandchildren. His first wife, Gladys, died in 1994.

Dr. Blizzard was known for a warm, avuncular bedside manner and an unusual dedication to his patients — one that in turn inspired lasting loyalty. Many of his patients stayed in touch with him decades after they had aged out of his pediatric care. Indeed, one former patient who was in his 60s and going through a health scare picked up the phone and called him first.



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