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Testosterone Supplements and Heart Attacks

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According to the New York Times, a large new medical study found that prescription testosterone supplements raised the risk of heart attacks in older men and in middle-aged men with a history of heart disease.

The new study has highlighted heart problems as a potential side effect of testosterone gels, patches, pellets and injections. The hormone is approved for low testosterone levels and is widely marketed for symptoms of “low T,” including fatigue, low libido and loss of energy.

Testosterone Medications “Lack of Warnings”

The drugs carry no mention of an increased risk on their labels or in their advertising materials, said Dr. Sidney M. Wolfe, a senior adviser to the Washington advocacy group Public Citizen. “Given that there have been several studies now, I don’t see how the Food and Drug Administration can justify having no warnings of heart attacks at all,” he said.

Heart Attack Rate Doubled

The new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, tracked about 56,000 older and middle-aged men around the country who were prescribed testosterone between 2008 and 2010. The study looked specifically at their rate of heart attacks in the year before receiving their new prescriptions, and in the three months after.

Researchers from the University of California – Los Angeles and the National Cancer Institute in Maryland say that taking testosterone may increase the average man’s overall risk of heart attack by 36%, but the risk is substantially higher for men with heart disease or over the age of 65.

Men 65 and older had double the rate of heart attacks in the months after starting the drug, as did those younger than 65 with a previous diagnosis of heart disease. There was no evidence of greater risk in the younger men without a history of heart problems.

In November, a study in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that older men, many with a history of heart disease, had a nearly 30 percent increase in mortality, heart attacks and stroke after using testosterone. And in 2009, a federally financed, randomized study that was intended to test whether testosterone gel could help elderly men build muscle and strength was halted early because of heart attacks and other cardiac problems in men using the drug.

Testosterone Increases Blood Clots

According to Mary Schooling, a professor of public health, Testosterone increases the production of red blood cells, which can clump together or coagulate. That may be especially hazardous in men who have narrowed arteries because of aging and disease. “There is a potential for harm, and people should know about this,” she said.

Testosterone Use “Quack Medicine”

Testosterone levels naturally decline with age, testosterone therapy is approved for use only in men with hypogonadism, an underlying endocrine disorder that typically results in a severe testosterone deficiency. Making that diagnosis requires doing a blood test. But studies show that nearly a quarter of men prescribed the drug do not have their levels tested.

Testosterone medications are a blockbuster industry, driven by direct-to-consumer marketing that encourage men to seek treatment for “Low T” if they feel a loss of energy or libido; factors previously considered a natural part of aging.

In recent years the use of AndroGel, Androderm, Testim, Axiron and similar testosterone treatments has increased more than a factor of five, with more than $1.9 billion in sales in 2012.

Recently many men are now investigating potential AndroGel lawsuits and other testosterone treatment lawsuits, alleging that the manufacturers of these products withheld information from consumers and the medical community about the potential heart risks.