BOSTON — According to a an article recently published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, testosterone replacement therapy prescriptions have increased so dramatically in the last decade because of the prevalence of advertising directly to potential patients as well as a lack of strict guidelines for testosterone prescription. The article is called “Disease Mongering of Age-Associated Declines in Testosterone and Growth Hormone Levels” and was written by doctors from the Boston Medical Center and the University of Sydney.

In 2012 alone, there were half a billion testosterone prescriptions, compared with only 100 million in 2007. The article refers to the type of advertising that has resulted in this startling climb as “disease mongering” because it is promoted as a drug to treat the natural process of aging. The article defines disease mongering as “the selling of sickness that widens the boundaries of illness and grows the markets for those who sell and deliver treatments.”

Although the prescription of testosterone replacement therapies is approved by the FDA, their approval is limited to treating men who are experiencing hypogonadism, which occurs when the body does not produce enough testosterone. However, only a quarter of men who use testosterone supplements have even been tested for hypogonadism, which is colloquially referred to as “low testosterone” or “low t.” Many men who come to low-t clinics in order to seek testosterone replacement therapy do so after viewing advertisements that encourage middle-aged men to obtain a prescription if they are experiencing a decreased libido, trouble sleeping or low energy levels.

There has been no conclusive evidence showing that testosterone treatments help men with the natural side effects of aging, and the liberal prescription of testosterone therapy may even be having detrimental health effects on many of the men taking it, particularly cardiovascular risks. The FDA has responded to the high number of prescriptions and the health risks of the drug by issuing new requirements for testosterone therapy drug labels. Manufacturers are now required to include warnings on the drugs’ labels. The FDA is also ordering clinical trials to investigate the results of other studies, which have concluded that testosterone treatment in men who do not have hypogonadism can increase their risk of strokes and other cardiovascular issues, such as heart attacks. In the meantime, lawsuits against testosterone drug manufacturers continue to mount.

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