Low testosterone replacement therapy, such as the prescription topical treatments Androgel, Testim and Axiron, are used to help boost testosterone levels in men who have a deficiency of the male hormone. Low testosterone symptoms include decreased libido and low energy.
In recent years, sales of testosterone drugs have skyrocketed as slick marketing campaigns promote low testosterone boosters as a “fountain of youth” that appeals to men who are getting older. Advertisements encourage men to talk to their doctors to see if low testosterone therapy is right for them, and to ask for the product by name.
More than 5.3 million prescriptions are written for testosterone products each year. Nearly 3 percent of all men in the United States older than 40 use the drugs.
Recently, however, testosterone replacement therapy for men has been linked to an increased risk of death, heart attack and stroke. Researchers from the University of Colorado studied health records of more than 8,700 older men and found those who used testosterone supplements were 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or die after three years of use.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in November 2013, revealed men who used testosterone supplements for three years or more were at greater risk of cardiovascular problems or death.
Fourteen percent of men who started low testosterone therapy after undergoing an angiography were mostly younger and slightly healthier than the 86 percent who did not use the hormones. However, after an average of three years, the men who used testosterone supplements were nearly 30 percent more likely than those who did not take the hormones to have a stroke, heart attack, or die from any cause.
Perhaps even more alarming, men who started the study with clear, unobstructed coronary arteries were just as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die as men who entered the study with established coronary artery disease.
The results of a second study, released Jan, 29, 2014, seems to confirm the dangers of low testosterone therapy. The study indicated low testosterone therapy doubled the risk of heart attack for men older than age 65, and nearly tripled the risk for younger men who had a history of heart disease. The new study was led by researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles and published in PLOS One.
Following the release of the most recent study, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it plans to review the safety of testosterone replacement drugs, and issued a Safety Advisory on the matter.
The agency said it is issuing the alert as it continues to “evaluate the information from these studies and other available data” that point to a significantly higher risk of “stroke, heart attack, and death in men taking FDA-approved testosterone products,” but advised that patients should not stop taking testosterone-enhancing drugs without first discussing their concerns with their doctor.
Researchers say the study raises definite concerns about testosterone supplements that men should discuss with their doctors.
If you or a loved one has suffered a heart attack or stroke while taking testosterone supplements, or if someone you love has died, we would like to talk to you.