Low-T: Real Problem Or Media/Market Hype?
By ConsumerReports.org // June 3, 2013
REVENUES FROM SALE OF TESTOSTERONE SOAR
EDITOR’S NOTE: Listening to both network and satellite radio, and watching network and cable TV, you might think that the most pressing health and lifestyle problem in the U.S. was centered around a bunch of middle-aged men trying desperately to regain the vim, vigor and sexual prowess they enjoyed 20 years ago.
According to the media and unrelenting ad campaigns, the obvious physiologic culprit for the vague symptoms of lethargy, depression and feeling a little anxious about one’s manliness is a “low” level of the hormone testosterone, dubbed in the vernacular as “Low-T.”
The “Low-T” phenomenon has been brought to center stage by the plethora of drug and nutritional supplement manufacturers that are vying for the progressively increasing “middle-aged man” demographic market with their claims of offering the “Holy Grail” that boosts testosterone levels.
However, researchers say it’s unclear whether the issues associated with aging—decreased sex drive, less energy, reduced muscle mass—are the result of low testosterone or other factors.
The Consumer Reports article excerpted below explores the possible benefits and the real risks of testosterone therapy, and concludes that there’s nothing romantic or age-defying about a drug that comes with long-term risks, especially when, in most cases, there are safer, much healtier ways to “bring back that lovin’ feeling.”
CONSUMERREPORTS.ORG – “Feeling like a shadow of your former self?” “Lost your appetite for romance?” If you believe the ads, the problem could be “low T,” and a daily dose of testosterone could restore your lost libido.
Drugmakers spreading the word of testosterone’s supposed wonders have spent lavishly on ads in recent years, from $14.3 million in 2011 to $107.3 million in 2012, mostly for two drugs, AndroGel 1.62% and Axiron. And the ads are working: Testosterone prescriptions—and drug company revenue from them—have skyrocketed, as shown in the chart below.
But our medical experts aren’t sold. They say the benefits of testosterone are overblown and the risks underappreciated. Those risks include breast enlargement, reduced fertility, heart attacks, and possibly faster-growing prostate cancer. Women accidentally exposed to the hormone can develop male characteristics, and children can enter an early puberty. And the drugs can be expensive—up to $570 a month.
The American Urological Association is so concerned by the trend that it recently added testosterone therapy to a list of overused and potentially dangerous medical treatments, as part of campaign called Choosing Wisely.