Pharmacological doses of glucocorticosteroids given chronically are associated with a variety of negative side effects which impact the prolonged use of these potent anti-inflammatory agents. They have catabolic effects on protein, resulting in poor tissue healing, an increased incidence of infections and accelerated bone loss. Insulin resistance to both hepatic and peripheral tissues is a common consequence of chronic steroid use, leading at times to impaired carbohydrate metabolism. Steroids affect both the release and the effects of growth hormone (GH) at the target sites, hence becoming functional GH antagonists. When administered to growing children the side effects of glucocorticosteroid treatment are further compounded by a potent and significant suppression of linear growth. Ample experimental and clinical data support a role for GH therapy in counteracting some of the effects of glucocorticosteroids. Using isotope dilution methods we have previously shown that both GH and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I can decrease the protein wasting effects of prednisone administration in man. IGF-I has also been shown to enhance type I collagen formation in hydrocortisone-treated human osteoblasts. GH (through IGF-I) significantly enhances linear growth; thus, in states of ‘functional’ GH deficiency, such as that observed in chronic steroid use, GH may also have a potentially beneficial effect. Studies in children on chronic prednisone doses with cystic fibrosis, chronic renal failure or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis have all shown beneficial effects on linear growth after prolonged GH therapy. Data from a recent study of ours using GH in children with steroid-dependent inflammatory bowel disease showed that GH treatment was associated with increased lean body mass, decreased adiposity and increased linear growth. Marked increases in IGF-I concentrations and in kinetic measures of bone calcium accretion (using calcium tracers) were also observed, without any deterioration of disease activity scores or carbohydrate tolerance. In conclusion, GH therapy may play a role in the treatment of children on chronic steroids both as a growth promoting agent and as an anabolic agent on whole body protein and bone. Longer term studies will be needed to better define the safety and efficacy of this approach.