Why Your Low-T Medications May Not Be Safe (Video)

Effects of long-term use remain unknown

medicine doping

If you’re taking a medication for low testosterone to ward off the effects of aging – such as decreased libido or fatigue – you should stop taking the drug now.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

The number of prescriptions for low testosterone, also known as low-T, has been rising for several years. But concerns are growing  in the medical community about whether the drugs are safe. A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee recently recommended restricting low-T medication.

 

The panel’s advice notes distinctions among causes of low testosterone level. The recommendation says the therapy is appropriate only for men with low testosterone levels due to a medical condition, such as pituitary or testicular diseases. Low testosterone levels from aging are not an appropriate reason to prescribe these drugs, the panel says. 

Men all want to feel younger and more virile, and they somehow have come to believe that low-T medication is the fountain of youth. But we don’t know whether it’s safe. These drugs are being prescribed for Americans without any information about the outcomes of taking them.

My recommendation and advice to patients hoping to counteract the effects of age is simple: If you are not taking low-T medications, don’t start. And, if you are, stop now.

[Tweet “Why you should drop your #low-T meds”]

Advertising Policy

Unknown effects

Continuing to take the medications could lead to unknown – or catastrophic – side effects. Or, the drugs could cause no problems at all. That’s the point. No one knows what will happen.

Right now, there’s no long-term research to guide physicians. There is no research that says whether low-T medications are a safe or effective means to counteract the effects of aging.

However, a study conducted by the Veterans Affairs Administration found that men with existing heart problems who also take low-T medicines had a 29 percent higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

The medical community is also concerned that testosterone replacement therapy could speed up the progression of – or even cause – prostate cancer in some men. Higher levels of testosterone can enlarge the prostate. An enlarged prostate is a hallmark symptom of this type of cancer.

Restricting low-T drugs

If the FDA panel’s advice becomes a regulation, drug companies could be required to put warning labels on their low-T products. The committee also recommends that drug companies conduct studies to explore possible risks of heart problems and stroke.

Many drug companies now advertise products designed to treat low testosterone, and men are buying. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of men older than age 40 using testosterone therapy tripled, according to a research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine. If the FDA recommendations become regulations, they would exclude millions of men now taking the drug.

You may have seen advertisements by “low-T centers.” These are businesses that say they are focused on treating low-T symptoms.

Advertising Policy

These low-T centers are trying to attract men to come in and sign up for testosterone drugs. But patients need to be mindful that these types of places are giving them a drug without knowing what the ultimate effect will be.

If your doctor determines you have a medical condition that needs testosterone therapy, there may be good reason to take it. And, by all means, talk it over with your doctor.

But if you want to take testosterone to feel or look younger, you very well may be risking your good health. 


Steven Nissen, MD

Steven Nissen, MD

Steven Nissen, MD, is Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. In 2007, TIME Magazine named him “one of the 100 most influential people in the world.”
Advertising Policy