Snow Weekend in Oregon
ELDER POETRY INTERLUDE: Poem on My 79th Birthday

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


The ads for medicines are so frightening that I can't watch them. I don't think this equates with sticking my head in the sand. I just don't want to see every advertisement-especially this kind. If I need to know, I do research on the internet to form my own somewhat educated opinion from many different sources.

Big Pharma Rules! And when I suggested this to an MD & remarked that the AMA had the clout to rein these charlatans in, he scoffed at the very idea! I have become so skeptical of all "new" miracle drugs that I refuse to take them. My DHs FMD said that he & most of his colleagues are sticking to the old tried & true meds many of which I gave to patients in the 50s & 60s. We stick with those when necessary. Dee

I just don't understand why so many people can't accept that some physical changes come naturally with age and are perfectly normal---not signals to make the big drug companies rich. We don't age well in this country! And that all gets back to our youth worshiping mind-set and airbrush happy media.

What disturbs me about this and other questionable drug fixes is that physicians are prescribing them, and pharmacists are selling them. Don't their professional standards groups have guidelines? HA! I get it that there's money there for pharmacies, but how does Dr. Whomever profit?

We are constantly looking for that elusive "fountain of youth". Some men think they will find it by chasing young women or dressing like teenagers or by taking a "magic" gel. Ponce de Leon never found it and neither will we. We are just not made to live forever. And by the way, those commercials never mention what part of the body you are supposed to apply that gel. The mind boggles.

Bruce Cooper...
To keep the record straight on this, the voice-overs may not mention the part of the body but in every commercial I've seen, the video shows the product being applied either to underarms or shoulders.

Amen, Jessie - I can't bear to watch the drug commercials, partly because they're so frightening and partly because they're so insidious. They're very good; they create the need. If you're at all suggestible, they're hard to resist.

s P. T. Barnum once said, "There's a sucker born every minute."

NPR aired an excellent program on this last week. I was only able to catch part of it, but what I heard was disturbing. I don't know what to make of all of this emphasis on the widespread use of products aimed at raising testosterone. The medical-industrial complex seems immense and far too powerful and influential.

Modern pharma certainly has been helpful to many people, but just because a drug is developed is no reason to take it. As a group, we want an instant cure for everything while somethings don't need a cure and other require effort on our part.

I know that this is a very serious subject and I want to add my experience to this discussion.

One evening my husband and I were sitting quietly,side by side, by the lake shore, watching the sunset and he had a Low T attack and my hot flashes started up.

We tried and tried to help ourselves but to no avail.

It was a real emergency and we had to call 911 to help us out of our bathtubs!

One of my nephews was prescribed this type of med (underarm application) and within months all his kids, 11-18, boy & two girls and his wife were diagnosed with various hormonal disruptions, him too. He's off it but it seemed to take double the time he used it for it to wash out of everyone's systems. Kind of scary.

We've seen this scenario over and over. One example is the drug advertised as reducing sleeplessness which has incredibly alarming side effects, such as having thoughts of suicide or getting up in the middle of the night and going for a drive in a zombie-like condition.

I read several years back that most countries do not allow advertisements for pharmaceuticals on TV and that allowing them and urging people to ask their doctor if Drug XYZ is "right for you" is an extremely lucrative business.

Actually, the pharmaceutical companies dream up new conditions to treat with drugs they already have so they can wring every last penny of profit out of their R&D investment. They take one of its side effects, something it does that it was not previously approved for, dream up a new condition/name that the side effect could treat, and market it as a new treatment for said condition. Testosterone has been on the market for years. Companies realized it could be used to treat the lower testosterone levels that occur naturally in older men and voila!

Stay tuned. Testosterone is sometimes prescribed to help women with a low sex drive. If a manufacturer thinks there's a big enough potential market, they'll whip up a catchy name for the problem (low libido, or "Low L"?) and start marketing tiny pink testosterone pills or patches for women.

If the visuals could be removed on all pharmaceuticals ads on TV and the audio only remained, there is no way anyone in their right mind would buy what was being hawked.

I am convinced that pharmaceutical companies are evil in their need to mfg. money for themselves - while saying to hell with the problems their meds cause. I hope they will someday be called to pay for all their actions.

In my opinion one of the darkest days in America is the day that Big Pharma was permitted to advertise directly to "consumers" on TV! Laypersons like myself can become informed patients, but we are not knowledgeable or trained to prescribe for ourselves--if we were, who needs to spend 8-12+ years in school and training to get an M.D.?

The piper will be paid over time for what TV ads for powerful drugs with frightening (and at times fatal) side effects has wrought. Personally, barring a life-or-death situation, I would be reluctant to take anything that hasn't been on the market--and proved relatively safe--for at least 25 years.

As I recall, general advertising of pharmaceuticals was outlawed, here in the USA, until the late 1980s.

Since Australia is one of the countries which doesn't have pharmaceutical advertising (beyond cold and flu treatment), my question on seeing this headline was 'what on earth is low-T?" Oh, I see - it's a marketing exercise!

These relentless drug ads are meant to control through fear and intimidation.

Turn it off, ignore it, don't be a test case for pharmaceuticals.

A certain Montreal radio station has ads directed at seniors.

Funeral arrangement, home security and "is it time to downsize?"

Imagine ads asking teens if they have made their arrangements.

The outcry would be huge.

Bruce Cooper, I like your style.

Excellent post and reminds me of the times I would take an elderly relative to his doctor's appointments. He would be complaining about this ailment or that and asking for this medication or that which he had seen on TV and the doctor responded "Charles I can't make you the way you were at 25; I can only help you manage the way you are now" and that was so true.

Thanks for bringing this one up, Ronni. I think it is the same commercial where the announcer stresses..."It's not age, it's low-T". Whaa??? Do many YOUNG men think they need this Rx? (There may be a handful, but let's face it...their audience has "low T" BECAUSE it got lower due to age!) Gawd! Talk about appealing to one's vanity. Whenever I hear the voice saying it's not age I cringe.

I actually find it more interesting that older men's quality of life seems important and women's concerns are brushed aside and pushed into the shadows.

Viagra and testosterone are routinely offered to men but women are told if they take estrogen they will die, there is libido drug you are expected to be sexless, bake cookies and babysit grandchildren instead and most suffer from vaginal atrophy in silence - nobody talks about it.

That's the big difference that I see.

I'm reading 'How Doctors Think' and this very subject comes up. Doctors rely on the pharma reps to keep them informed about really great new drugs (and there are some), but low-T is a very serious condition for just a small percentage of men, so this drug is vital for them, but indeed - good doctors KNOW pharma capitalizes on the marketablity of some types of drugs for their own profit.

What really scares me is the insidious drugging of Americans on Social Security, as evidenced by the pounds of drug catalogs they've been sending me since I started collecting retirement benefits.

I'm very paranoid also, about those many drugs and hormones showing up in municipal drinking water.

Vera, there are drugs that are developed and advertised for us older women. They prevent bladder leakage and make it easier to keep baking those cookies.

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