You may have seen the enticing drug advertisements on television advising men who suffer from low energy and low sexual interest to talk to their doctors about “Low T” or low testosterone. Since those ads have been on the air, testosterone replacement therapies have gone flying off the shelves. But now the FDA warns that these testosterone therapies increase the risk of stroke and heart attack. In March of 2015, the FDA required that all manufacturers of testosterone drugs add a warning to their labels. This warning is finally trickling down to small town newspapers, such as the Lompoc Record which ran an edited reprint of a Los Angeles Times article on April 23.
As one might already know, few people get the box. Everyone who goes to the pharmacy gets a typical pharmacy container. The warnings will have to be added to the information handed to the customer, or by adding a sticker next to the label. This may not be an effective way of transmitting the information to those who are desperate for what they see to be the positive effects of raising their testosterone. Why care about the risk of heart attack when a man can take a pill and feel young again? “People are looking for the fountain of youth,” said FDA advisory panel member Dr. Aaron Katz, a urologist in Mineola, N.Y.
The FDA currently has only approved testosterone therapy for men who suffer from disorders which cause hypogonadism. Those disorders might stem from the testicles, the loss of the testicles, or from an under-functioning pituitary gland. The FDA recommends that low testosterone ought to be confirmed with laboratory testing before prescribing the medications.
This warning ought to extend to women. Testosterone patches are often used in conjunction with assisted reproductive technologies like invitro fertilization. The running theory is that women who have trouble conceiving may have lower levels of androgens from under-functioning pituitary glands. However, this is often not confirmed with laboratory testing. Most insurance companies do not cover testosterone therapy for women in conjunction with any ART, so the out of pocket cost can be quite high.
Sylvia Jenkins*, who underwent IVF in hopes of expanding her family told zoomdune.com, “My doctor said I needed testosterone patches as part of IVF. I looked at my blood tests later, and I didn’t see a test for that.” She continued, “I felt totally wired on those patches. In a way, I liked it, but in another way, it was really uncomfortable and expensive. And IVF didn’t even work.”
For men, there may be other ways they can ignite the fires of their younger years which don’t involve supplementing their level of testosterone. The wisest route to feeling more energetic is to quit smoking, eat a healthy diet, get 8 hours of restorative sleep per night, and to exercise since the greatest health factors for erectile dysfunction are diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension. Special attention should be paid to strengthening the core muscles, which tend to weaken with age. The core muscles include the pelvic floor muscles which control bladder and rectal function. A healthy pelvic floor can also help men to have a better sex life and can help men with erectile dysfunction and painful sex.
*The name of the interviewee was changed upon request.