The testosterone patch Androderm, manufactured by Actavis Inc., has been linked to an increased risk of blood clots in the legs (a condition known as “deep vein thrombosis”). Recent studies indicate that Androderm may also increase a man’s risk of blood clot complications, including pulmonary embolism, heart attack, stroke, and death.
Androderm and Testosterone
Androderm is a patch that delivers the hormone testosterone via transdermal absorption through the skin. This is used to help treat “low testosterone” or “Low T” in men who have hypogonadism. Testosterone is a Schedule III controlled substance because it is used illicitly by athletes to “pump up” their blood.
Androderm Blood Clots
The Prescribing Information for Androderm includes warnings about blood clots in the legs. This condition, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), can cause leg pain, swelling, and redness. DVT can obstruct circulation and damage veins. Blood clots can also grow very large, break loose, travel in the bloodstream, and obstruct vessels in the lungs (called a pulmonary embolism).
Studies Link Testosterone and Blood Clots in First 90 Days of Treatment
Several recent studies have linked the use of testosterone to an increased risk of blood clots, heart attack, stroke, and death — especially in the first 90 days of treatment. One study was published in August 2013 in Clinical and Applied Thrombosis/Hemostasis by Dr. Charles Glueck and colleagues. After seeing 600 men with blood clots, he found:
“Our research found that 1.2% of men who landed in the hospital with dangerous and potentially lethal blood clots in the deep veins of the legs or in the lungs developed these clots within three months of starting testosterone therapy.”
Blood Clot Complications
Blood clots are extremely dangerous because they can cut off circulation to vital organs and tissues. This rapidly causes necrosis (cell death) from a lack of oxygen and nutrients. The long-term complications depend on where the blood clot occurs — brain damage from strokes, heart failure from a heart attack, etc. In studies of testosterone, less-common complications like blindness and bone death (osteonecrosis) of the hip have also been reported.
Treatment for Blood Clots
The treatment for a blood clot depends on the location and the patient’s health. The most common options include:
- Blood-thinning medication (i.e, warfarin, Pradaxa, etc.): If the patient needs long-term management, he may be given a prescription blood-thinning medication that interferes with the ability of blood platelets to stick together.
- Clot-busting drug (i.e., heparin): In an emergency, hospitals may administer an intravenous (IV) clot-busting drug to dissolve any existing blood clots.
- Catheter-directed thrombolysis: This treatment uses a catheter (long, flexible tube) which is guided to the location of the blood clot. Then, a clot-busting drug is injected.
- Surgery: The last-resort treatment is surgery to physically remove the blood clot. Also known as an embolectomy or venous thrombectomy.