National Public Radio (NPR) recently called testosterone replacement drugs “the biggest men’s health craze since Viagra,” but some doctors warn that the supplements could be anything but healthy for some men.
The Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center in New Orleans recently reported that resident urologist Harold Fuselier warns that testosterone-replacement drugs, which are now widely available in topical gels, creams, and patches, could have serious, even deadly, side effects.
It’s an especially important warning to consider, given the proliferation of television, web, and print advertisements touting the advantages of drugs that artificially boost low testosterone levels, often referred to as “low T.”
According to the LSU Health Sciences Center, Dr. Fuselier pointed to the results of some recent studies linking testosterone drugs with serious side effects. One study of more than 55,000 men found that heart attack risk doubled among older men who used testosterone supplements.
Researchers stopped another large study of testosterone drugs prematurely after it became apparent that the drugs were causing heart attacks and other adverse cardiovascular events in men of all ages with heart disease.
Testosterone drugs have also been linked to prostate growth and prostate cancer, Dr. Fuselier said, as well as some other lesser-known effects such as testicular shrinkage, which may come about in men who use testosterone drugs for a long period of time.
“When young men start taking it, it cuts off the supply of testosterone from the testicles,” Dr. Fuselier explained. “It also decreases the sperm from the testicles. So, some of these men become infertile. Also, when they stop the drugs, sometimes it’s hard for the testicles to rebound. So, it may cause some permanent damage.”
Although most of the current body of research indicates testosterone supplements may come with serious risks, Dr. Fuselier said that more research is needed.
He also said that prescriptions for “low T” drugs shouldn’t be based on one lab test reading, due to the cyclical nature of hormones, which are normally higher in the morning than they are in the afternoon and evening.
Popular testosterone replacement drugs include brand names AndroGel, Testim, and Axiron.