Many older men use testosterone replacement products but do not meet the clinical guidelines for treatment, putting them at risk for potentially serious side effects, a new study shows.
Testosterone is the male hormone that is credited for improving sex drive, sperm production and bone health. Levels of testosterone generally fall as men age. In some cases, low testosterone can cause men to lose interest in sex and gain weight. In some cases, testosterone therapy can treat these symptoms.
Testosterone use among older men has skyrocketed in the past decade, thanks in large part to heavy marketing campaigns in the United States waged by drug makers peddling testosterone supplements such as AndroGel, Testim and Axiron. The drugs require a doctor’s prescription, thus the advertisements encourage male patients to discuss their symptoms with their doctors to see if they have “Low T.”
Blood tests can measure testosterone levels, but it is difficult to get an accurate reading. Levels change from day to day and throughout the day. Critics have suggested that heavy marketing of the products may have led to overprescribing the drug, especially when it is not warranted.
A team of researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied commercial and Medicare insurance claims and general practitioner health care records from the U.K. between 2000 and 2011 and found that 401,019 American men and just 6,858 European men were taking hormone replacement products. An astounding 1.1 million American men had their hormone levels tested during that time, compared to just 66,000 U.K. men.
Many men consider testosterone therapy safe, however a recent study published in JAMA showed that the drug could have long-term health consequences. The study found that older men who took testosterone supplements were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or die from any cause compared to older men who did not use testosterone products.
Source: Washington Post