In 2011, an aggressive marketing campaign for testosterone replacement products drove $1.37 billion in sales and resulted in five million prescriptions that were written for Low Testosterone Treatment (or Low T Therapy) in the United States.
While testosterone replacement products are intended to treat symptoms of low testosterone levels, various studies have found a link between these treatments and an increased risk for heart attack, stroke or even death.
The FDA is currently investigating reports of serious side effects related to Low T Therapy, and lawsuits have been presented against testosterone product manufacturers like Abbot Laboratories and AbbVie Inc.
Low Testosterone Treatment products include:
Risk-to-Benefit Ratio for Low Testosterone Treatment
Testosterone Replacement Therapy is intended to help minimize the effects of decreased testosterone levels in men. Testosterone naturally declines with age and can reduce bone density, cause a loss of muscle mass and negatively impact sex drive.
While patients have reported improvements for these symptoms with Low T Therapy, the health risks may outweigh the benefits.
According to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in November 2013, men who used a testosterone therapy product had a nearly 30% greater risk for heart attack, stroke or death. Men with existing signs of heart problems or other health conditions such as high cholesterol, plaque buildup, artery blockage, obesity or diabetes were the most likely to suffer from adverse side effects when using a testosterone replacement product.
Because of these risks, authors of various studies recommended that physicians should use more caution when prescribing low testosterone treatments.
The Dangers of Aggressive Marketing for Low T Treatment
Recent lawsuits against the manufacturers of low testosterone therapy products argue that aggressive advertising and direct marketing campaigns led to “disease mongering” by suggesting that low testosterone levels were to blame for a variety of symptoms including moodiness, weight gain, and listlessness – when in actuality, such symptoms could simply be the result of the body’s natural aging process or some other variable.
The FDA has only approved testosterone products for men whose testosterone levels are low “in conjunction with an associated medical condition,” but one-quarter of the men who are prescribed a testosterone replacement treatment have not actually been tested for low T before receiving the prescription.
Requests for prescriptions increased as men were convinced by the marketing campaigns that they suffered from low testosterone levels. Additionally, an inadequate quiz was used as part of the marketing campaign for AndroGel to determine whether a patient was a candidate for low testosterone treatment. Dr. John Morley, creator of the quiz, stated that it was “not ideal.”
Misrepresentation of Low Testosterone Treatment Safety
Studies have shown that low testosterone treatment products carry significant risks and can cause serious medical problems including life threatening cardiac and thrombolytic events, and strokes; yet drug manufacturers have misrepresented Low T products as being safe and effective for the treatment of various symptoms.
If you are currently being treated for low testosterone levels, do not stop taking any medication without first consulting your healthcare provider, but you should talk to your doctor about the risks of your medication and be sure that any existing medical conditions will not increase those risks.