Testosterone replacement therapy is approved for the treatment of hypogonadism, a condition in which men do not produce enough of the male hormone due to disease, injury or defect. But manufacturers of testosterone treatments have heavily promoted the product to treat symptoms of so-called “Low T,” such as low libido, memory loss, weight gain, muscle loss and mood swings.
The marketing strategy worked surprisingly well, resulting in skyrocketing sales of testosterone replacement therapies that eventually raised concerns that the drugs were being prescribed to men who actually didn’t need it, such as older men who naturally see a dip in the production of testosterone.
Concerns were heightened even more when studies began to reveal that men using testosterone treatments were at an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular death. To better understand the risks versus benefits of testosterone therapies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked that manufacturers to conduct studies.
AbbVie Pharmaceuticals, maker of AndroGel, provided its topical testosterone gel for a study partially funded by the National Institutes on Aging involving nearly 800 men aged 65 and older with low testosterone levels. The study’s goal was to determine whether daily use of testosterone gel could treat symptoms of low testosterone. They found that after using the hormone for a year, bones were strengthened and anemia reduced, but the men showed signs of worsening artery disease, such as more plaque buildup and narrower arteries. Questions also remained about other potential risks.
Among the new findings from the research was that testosterone treatment had no effect on memory or mental function, based on tests given the older male participants before, halfway and after treatment.
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and JAMA Internal Medicine, highlights the importance for more research into the long-term effects of testosterone treatments, researchers said.