Older men who are considering testosterone replacement therapy to boost their libido, increase muscle mass and fight fatigue should first talk to their doctors about their increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and death when taking the supplements, according to the Endocrine Society.
Testosterone therapy is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat a condition known as hypogonadism, which occurs when a man’s testicles do not produce enough testosterone. It is common as men age for their testosterone levels to drop, and many men do not experience or are not bothered by the symptoms.
However, drug companies pushing testosterone supplements, such as AndroGel, Testim, and Axiron, have used heavy marketing campaigns to encourage men to talk to their doctors to see if they may have “Low T.” As a result, sales of testosterone products have skyrocketed in recent years, growing from about $18 to $20 million in sales in 1988 to about $2.2 billion in 2013.
Testosterone treatment has its benefits, boosting sex drive and improving muscle mass. The long-term effects, however, have only recently come to light over the past several months. Recent studies show that older men who use the supplements are at as much as 30 times greater risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or dying from any cause than men not using the products. Older men with heart disease who use the hormone have about double the heart attack risk in the first 90 days of treatment.
The Endocrine Society issued a statement saying testosterone treatment can be a benefit to men who suffer from hypogonadism, but older men need to be made aware of the serious heart risks associated with the products before deciding to use them.