Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced an investigation into possible cardiac risks from testosterone therapies, it’s caused many to take a harder look at the widespread use and marketing of the drug.
What testosterone treatment amounts to is hormone replacement therapy – similar to the hormone replacement therapies prescribed freely for women for decades before the long term potentially dangerous side effects were discovered. It raises the question of the purpose of the treatment, and what men and their doctors should consider now, before more long-term studies can be done.
The FDA has approved testosterone therapies only for men with low levels of the hormone due to a medical condition. Four years ago, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine found only 2% of men between the ages of 40 to 80 suffered from ‘Low T,’ which is sometimes called male menopause. The drug is not approved for men who are naturally producing lower levels of testosterone as they age.
The Mayo Clinic recently updated its website to include possible cardiac risks. The site advises, “If testing shows that you have low testosterone, talk to your doctor to ensure that the cause is determined. If testosterone replacement is an option for you, discuss with your doctor the risks, benefits and treatment monitoring plan.”
A publication from the Endocrine Society found that “many patients appear to have normal testosterone levels and do not meet the clinical guidelines for treatment.”
The publication also reports that since 2000, the number of men in the U.S. beginning testosterone treatment has almost quadrupled, while it only increased by a third for men in the United Kingdom. Most of these patients did not have their testosterone levels tested recently or only had them only measured once prior to starting treatment.
What doctors are suspecting is that many of the symptoms attributed to low testosterone – such as easy fatigue and low sexual desire — may be caused by other disorders that accumulate during aging, such as obesity and heart disease. And many of those disorders have other, more appropriate treatments, including changes in diet and exercise.
The bottom line is that testosterone therapy is only currently approved for medical conditions causing low testosterone.
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