More medical professionals are warning that the potential side effects of testosterone treatments need further study. Recent studies showing that testosterone therapy can increase the risk of heart attack in men over age 65 and men of all ages who have heart disease caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to announce its intention to evaluate the safety of testosterone therapy.
What have the studies found?
One study published last fall in The Journal of the American Medical Association noted in the introduction that, “Rates of testosterone therapy are increasing and the effects of testosterone therapy on cardiovascular outcomes and mortality are unknown.” That study had launched a randomized clinical trial intended to examine the effects of testosterone therapy in men with a high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases. The study was halted prematurely “due to adverse cardiovascular events raising concerns about testosterone therapy safety.”
In the random trials, the men over age 60 who were given the drug experienced an almost 30% increase risk of heart attack, stroke, or death than men who were taking the placebo.
Another study, published in January this year, was the largest to date looking at heart disease in men taking testosterone therapy. That study, conducted jointly by UCLA, the National Institutes of Health, and Consolidated Research Inc., found that men under 65 who have a history of heart disease experienced a twofold increase in the risk of a heart attack shortly after beginning testosterone treatment. The joint study was also able to confirm earlier findings in the effects on older men. The risk also doubled in men older than 65 both with and without heart disease.
The joint study looked at the health care records of more than 55,000 men who had been prescribed testosterone therapy — 48,000 under the age of 65 and 7,000 who were 65 or older.
One interesting aspect of the later study is that it compared the effects of testosterone treatments with patients who took Viagra or Cialis erectile dysfunction pills, since those drugs are similarly prescribed for enhancing sexual performance.
The results showed that men younger than 65 with heart disease who were given testosterone therapy were twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, than those who took the impotence pills. This comparison helps show that the increase in cardiovascular risk can be attributed to the hormone treatments, and not the sexual behavior.