As men age, their testosterone levels drop. Their muscle mass declines, they start feeling tired more easily, and they begin to lose interest in sex or in sexual performance. A few years ago, ads for testosterone replacement therapies encouraged men to ask their doctors if they were candidates for testosterone treatment for their so-called Low T. The products, the ads claimed, could reverse those bothersome symptoms. But medical science has since revealed that testosterone supplementation for age-related drops in testosterone levels is not only unnecessary, it can be dangerous.
Despite this, testosterone manufacturers like AbbVie, makers of the top selling testosterone treatment AndroGel, marketed the drugs heavily across the U.S. Researchers found that in places where there were a lot of testosterone ads, testosterone testing increased as did treatment for the products. But in some cases, treatment occurred even though men did not have their levels checked, a prerequisite for testosterone replacement.
Why is this concerning? Testosterone replacement therapy, such as AndroGel and Axiron, is designed for men with diseases that affect their ability to produce the male hormone. But for people who don’t have those diseases and whose testosterone decline can be chalked up to age, there is no evidence that testosterone treatments can improve their quality of life. Even more concerning is that it may increase their risk of having a heart attack, stroke or blood clot, all of which can be fatal.
Studies that raised these concerns prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to crack down on testosterone supplement manufacturers. The Low T ads stopped in 2014. Now manufacturers are facing lawsuits from men who claim they were not adequately warned about the cardiovascular risks associated with testosterone therapy. The first two testosterone cases to go to trial have resulted in $150 million and $140 million verdicts in favor of the plaintiffs with juries in both cases taking issue with AbbVie’s marketing of AndroGel.