AndroGel, Testim and other topical testosterone gel products were designed to restore healthy levels of functioning in men suffering from diminished bone and muscle mass, depression, weakened libido and other symptoms associated with low testosterone levels, or “Low T”. But now doctors are worried the testosterone drugs – coveted by many men for their sexual enhancement properties — are quickly creating another hormone-replacement health crisis in the United States.
Bloomberg reports that AndroGel manufacturer Abbott Laboratories and other drug companies making and marketing testosterone drugs are offering to help some 14 million American men whose testosterone levels may be lower than ideal.
Testosterone drugs have become “one of the most sought-after sex enhancement treatments since the introduction of Viagra 14 years ago,” Bloomberg reports. ”Prescriptions for AndroGel and similar products have doubled since 2006 to 5.6 million, and industry analysts expect sales of these drugs to triple to $5 billion by 2017. That’s a lot of men with a lot of testosterone.”
But AndroGel and other testosterone drugs spell trouble for many people, users and nonusers alike. In men whose testosterone levels aren’t pathologically low, the AndroGel can promote prostate tumors and prostate cancer, low sperm count, inflammation and swelling, blood clots, liver damage, hypertension, and other risks ranging from mild to life-threatening.
But when symptoms become apparent, some men relying on testosterone drugs for increased energy, enhanced libido, more muscle mass, and other fountain-of-youth properties may be unwilling to give the drugs up.
“Am I making a deal with the devil? A little bit, but I have to think about my quality of life,” Michael Murray, 43, told Bloomberg. “It is like I’m in my 20s again.”
However, men who use AndroGel 1%, AndroGel 1.62%, Testim 1%, and similar topical products aren’t the only ones at risk. Women and children who come into contact with the gel may experience reactions associated with excessive testosterone.
Unexpected sexual development, including enlargement of the penis or clitoris may occur in children exposed to testosterone drugs. Premature development of pubic hair, increased erections, aggressive behavior, acne, and advanced bone age are other adverse effects children may develop after being exposed to the drugs.
The FDA has received reports of premature puberty in children ranging in age from 9 months to 7 years old after secondary exposure to testosterone gel.
For women, changes in hair distribution, increase in acne, or other signs of testosterone effects have been reported.
Men who use testosterone gels are advised to apply the drug to their shoulder, upper arm, or in the case of AndroGel 1%, their abdomen, so that their clothing will shield others from contacting the drug. Even then, the testosterone gel user’s clothes, towels, sheets, and other items may present a secondary exposure risk to others.
Women and children who know or suspect they have gotten a topical testosterone drug on them should thoroughly wash the affected area with soap and water immediately.