Tuesday, 11 February 2014
Is Low-T a Real Condition?
The commercials for prescription drugs to treat what the ads call “low-T” are so frequent and ubiquitous I can almost recite the frightful side effects from memory:
”Stop using AndroGel and call your healthcare provider right away if you see any signs and symptoms of puberty in a child, or changes in body hair or increased acne in a woman...
“AndroGel can cause serious side effects, including: If you already have enlargement of your prostate gland, your signs and symptoms can get worse while using AndroGel...
“Possible increased risk of prostate cancer
“In large doses, AndroGel may lower your sperm count
“Swelling of your ankles, feet, or body, with or without heart failure. This may cause serious problems for people who have heart, kidney, or liver disease.”
Although the quotations are from the safety information at the Androgel website, Axiron and other low-T drugs post similar warnings.
Craig Niederberger, M.D., head of the department of urology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in Consumer Reports confirms personal experience with reduced sperm counts in patients who take low-T drugs:
“I see men every week who are infertile thanks to testosterone therapy,” he says.
Yikes. I've always been suspicious of the commercials, of the fact that there is anything wrong with lower testosterone as a man gets older that needs to be treated. But even if it does, who in their right mind would risk using this drug and who in their right mind would sell a drug with these side effects unless the condition itself was life-threatening?
And anyway, what does the drug do?
Good question. The commercials imply, vaguely, that their low-T drug will help with depression, low energy, weight gain, fatigue, low sex drive. Is it known, I wondered, that low-T causes those conditions?
Glenn Braunstein, an endocrinologist and vice president of clinical innovation at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles told the Washington Post,
“'Those symptoms are true of everybody as they age, to a greater or lesser extent...”
Further, explained the Post reporter,
”While those symptoms can all be signs of too little testosterone, they are also caused by other conditions, many of which can be treated with changes in diet, exercise and lifestyle. Hormone experts say that using testosterone as a quick fix for aging may be misguided or, worse, unsafe.”
Writing in The New York Times two weeks ago, internist John La Puma called low-T “a trumped up disease” while noting that
”...a large study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that, within three months, taking the hormone doubled the rate of heart attacks in men 65 and older, as well as in younger men who had heart disease.”
On 31 January 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a new study
”...investigating the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death in men taking FDA-approved testosterone products.
“We have been monitoring this risk and decided to reassess this safety issue based on the recent publication of two separate studies that each suggested an increased risk of cardiovascular events among groups of men prescribed testosterone therapy.”
That part about “death in men taking FDA-approved testosterone products” ought to be sobering to any men using one of these drugs.
Low-T sounds to me like another big pharma boondoggle that goes like this:
• Invent an almost plausible-sounding condition
• Create an expensive drug to treat it
• Rake in the dough
Low-T drugs cost up to $400 a month. This chart is from an informative low-T story at Consumer Reports last year:
Did you notice that those numbers in the third chart refer to BILLIONS of dollars? Consumer Reports also produced this short video that crams a lot of information into two minutes:
Last week, Crabby Old Lady told you about some dodgy claims from a well-known physician about how to reverse aging - claims that can't possibly be true because nothing known to mankind reverses aging.
That snake oil only costs money and not all that much. This one could cost a man his life. Keep in mind that the FDA hardly ever investigates a drug once they approve it so when they do, you can bet the issue is serious.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Cassie Rogers: Dessert in the Afternoon