Drugmakers are lavishing millions of dollars on ads promoting the wonders of testosterone treatment, but they overhype the benefits and underplay the risks, according to Consumer Reports magazine.
The print and television ads, primarily for two products, AndroGel and Axiron, are working well, the magazine reports in its July issue. Testosterone prescriptions have increased sharply since 2010, along with drug company revenues.
But Consumer Reports’ medical experts worry that men are rushing to treat “low T” without fully considering the risks to themselves and others in their households. For men using the products, risks include breast enlargement, reduced fertility, heart attacks, and, possibly, faster-growing prostate cancer, according to Consumer Reports. The gel forms of testosterone, which are applied to underarms and upper arms, can be transferred to those who come into contact with the man in question, which could expose women and children to serious unwanted side effects. Children exposed to testosterone can experience early puberty and women can develop male characteristics. Pregnant or nursing women can transfer the hormone to their babies, Consumer Reports warns. And, the article notes, there is little evidence that extra doses of the hormone improve sexual satisfaction.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved testosterone to treat men with hormone levels well below normal, Consumer Reports explains, but these men experience a number of significant symptoms.
Consumer Reports advises safer ways for men to improve sexual satisfaction: eat right, exercise, get enough sleep, reduce stress. Have an exam to rule out or find treatment for conditions – obesity and diabetes, for example – that can contribute to low testosterone. “There is nothing romantic,” the article notes, “about a drug that comes with long-term risks to you and the people you live with.”