July 6, 2016 — An investigation into “illness inflation” is showing how drug-makers are pushing testosterone therapy toward older men with naturally declining libido, despite concerns about life-threatening cardiovascular side effects.
Investigators with the Journal-Sentinel say drug-makers are creating a new market for high-profit prescription drugs by “taking common everyday conditions and turning them into medical disorders.”
Testosterone levels and sexual desire naturally decline with age. Injections of testosterone have been on the market for decades, but only for men with a rare condition known as hypogonadism that can be caused by missing testicles or genetic disorders.
That all changed in 2006, when drug-makers funded a study that said around 14 million American men — 39% of men over 45 — had low testosterone levels.
Soon afterward, AbbVie, manufacturer of AndroGel, launched a massive ad campaign suggesting that aging men with low libido might have “Low T.” Today, around 30 million men are on testosterone, and 25% got a prescription without a blood test.
Testosterone is not FDA-approved to increase sexual desire in men. Studies do not show that testosterone significantly improves libido. However, you wouldn’t know it with recent headlines like “Testosterone therapy may boost older men’s sex lives”. Not surprisingly, that study was funded by AbbVie. The result? One extra orgasm per month compared to a placebo.
Far from a “fountain of youth,” testosterone therapy has serious side effects. Furthermore, the body stops making its own testosterone when men start taking supplements, which makes it hard to discontinue treatment. Last year alone, the FDA received 9,000 reports of serious side effects. According to investigators:
“Since 2013, testosterone drugs were listed as the primary cause behind more than 14,000 reports of serious medical complications, including more than 1,900 hospitalizations and about 450 deaths.”
AbbVie and other drug-makers are now facing over 5,000 lawsuits from injured victims and lawyers who accuse the companies of “disease mongering.” Last year, the FDA warned about a “possible increased risk of heart attack and stroke” and cautioned against using testosterone for age-related hypogondism.