Research shows a sharp increase in the number of older men taking testosterone medication in the past decade. According to a new study, some of these patients may be using taking testosterone when they don’t actually need it.
In fact, researchers believe that many “low T” patients are taking testosterone even though they fail to meet the clinical guidelines for testosterone deficiency.
Testosterone is a male hormone linked to sex drive and bone health. Low-level testosterone, or “low T,” is a condition that many men struggle with in the United States. Over time, it is normal for men’s’ testosterone levels to decline. If the decrease is severe, the patient could develop a medical condition called hypogonadism. In order to qualify for testosterone therapy, a patient must produce an abnormally low amount of testosterone.
In many cases, obesity and diabetes cause a decrease in testosterone, but “low T” linked to weight gain and diabetes does not necessitate treatment.
An author of research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said:
“Over the past decade, older and middle-aged men are increasingly being tested for low testosterone levels and being prescribed testosterone medications, particularly in the United States. While direct-to-consumer advertising and the availability of convenient topical gels may be driving more men to seek treatment, our study suggests that many of those who start taking testosterone may not have a clear medical indication to do so.”
In a recent study, experts analyzed a slew of medical and insurance claims provided by the U.K. general practitioner records and the United States government.
The claims were from 2000 to 2011 and identified more than 400,000 men in the United States who began taking testosterone medication. Nearly 7,000 men in the U.K. began the similar treatment. Between 2000 and 2011, more than 1 million U.S. men sought testing for low testosterone, compared to only 66,000 men in the U.K.
Doctors quadrupled the number of “low T” patients receiving medication in the United States between 2000 and 2011. The number of testosterone patients in the U.K. only increased by one third.
What does this mean? Some experts are concerned that many of these men don’t actually need to take testosterone.
To solve the problem, the Endocrine Society’s Clinical Practice Guidelines for testosterone therapy recommend that doctors start prescribing medication only for men who show unequivocally low levels of testosterone and demonstrate consistent symptoms for low testosterone.