A new study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) is exploring the causation link between testosterone therapy and heart attacks.
Recent studies have shown that testosterone therapy can increase the risk of heart attack in men over 65, and in men of all ages who have heart disease. Those findings caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a safety alert earlier this year. The FDA stated that it had been monitoring those risks and announced its intention to evaluate the safety of testosterone therapy.
Up until now, the studies showed a correlation, but haven’t precisely tracked how the medication could cause the heart problems.
The UBC study is led by Dr. Mahyar Etminan, a scientist at the UBC Department of Medicine. Dr. Etminan has expertise in pharmacoepidemiology, which is a discipline studying the patterns of uses, effects, and safety of pharmaceuticals.
Dr. Etminan believes the reason testosterone therapy increases risk of heart attack is tied to the fact that the medication makes the blood clot; if that blood clot gets stuck in the heart, that causes a heart attack.
Dr. Etminan has designed an observational study of this effect; the study will include more than one million male participants.
Dozens of lawsuits have already been filed from men alleging that testosterone therapy lead to heart attacks, blood clots, strokes and similar effects. The drugs named in the suits include AndroGel, a topical testosterone treatment. Five men filed a claim against the AndroGel makers earlier this year. Three men had heart attacks after they started using AndroGel, the fourth had a stroke, and the fifth man had a mini-stroke. All plaintiffs (who range in age from 50 to 63) are alleging the adverse events were caused by the testosterone therapy treatments.
Studies are lining up to support the idea of direct causation. A Hong Kong research team compared the results from studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry and studies not funded by the industry. Its findings, published in the BioMed Central journal, showed overall that non-industry funded studies showed that testosterone creams and gels increased the risk for heart and stroke events.