Testosterone Treatments For Men Under The Microscope
September 10, 2012

Safety, Effectiveness Of Testosterone Therapy Questioned

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Despite a flurry of advertising claiming that testosterone-based products can help men become more energetic, lose weight, and increase their sex drive, experts say that there is no evidence to support those assertions.

According to a Sunday report by AP Health Writer Matthew Perrone, an increasing number of pharmaceutical companies are offering prescription treatments aimed at increasing production of testosterone, the hormone which is largely responsible for the development of male reproductive tissues and also plays a role in muscle and bone mass.

Those firms, Perrone said, target men over the age of 40 by claiming that their treatments can help "reverse some of the signs of aging -- even though the safety and effectiveness of such treatments is unclear."

However, Dr. Sergei Romashkan, who oversees clinical trials for the National Institute on Aging, told the AP that they had not yet found "any evidence that prescribing testosterone to older men with relatively low testosterone levels does any good."

The increasing popularity of testosterone-based treatments stems from other, similar medications that have promised to help men (and women) overcome aspects of aging that were once accepted, including osteoporosis, hot flashes, and bladder issues. In addition, the life-expectancy in the US has jumped from 69 years to 78 years in the past 50 years, Perrone said, and since people are living longer, they want to stay active longer.

As a result, "companies have stepped up their marketing to the older crowd: Spending on print and television ads promoting testosterone by firms like Abbott and Eli Lilly has risen more than 170% in the last three years to more than $14 million in 2011," the Associated Press reporter said. "Doctors say that's led to an increase in men seeking treatment for low testosterone. Prescriptions for the hormone have increased nearly 90% the past five years, according to IMS Health. Last year, global sales reached $1.9 billion."

Previous research has cast doubts both on testosterone replacement therapy's safety and effectiveness, Perrone said. A 2008 Dutch study of 230 people discovered no significant increase in strength, bone density, cognitive thinking skills, or overall quality of life, and a 2010 Boston University study was halted after the researchers found that men who took the treatment were five times more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event.

"History has shown that hormone replacement therapy can be dangerous," the AP health writer said, adding that Romashkan's organization is in the midst of conducting "an 800-man trial to definitively answer whether testosterone therapy improves walking ability, sexual function, energy, memory and blood cell count in men 65 years and older." The results from that research aren't expected until sometime in 2014, he added.