May 20, 2015 — A new study suggests that injections of testosterone may spike a man’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and death compared to topical gel products that are absorbed slowly through the skin.
The study was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on May 11.
Researchers looked at data from nearly 550,000 men in the United States and United Kingdom who started using testosterone between January 2000 and December 2012. Over half used a gel product, and 37% used an injection.
During that time, the popularity of topical gel products like AndroGel exploded — mostly due to an ad campaign aimed at convincing middle-aged men that they might be suffering from “Low T” if they had low libido, depressed mood, increased body fat, and other common signs of aging.
Researchers found that men who used testosterone injections, such as Depo-Testosterone were 34% more likely to die, 16% more likely to be hospitalized, and 26% more likely to suffer a heart attack, chest pain (unstable angina), or stroke.
The authors of the study warned:
“Testosterone injections were associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular events, hospitalizations, and deaths compared with gels. Patches and gels had similar risk profiles.”
MedPage Today talked to experts who warned that injections spike the level of testosterone much faster than gels, which might help explain the increased risk.
Unfortunately, researchers did not compare the risks between users and non-users of testosterone. Controversy erupted early last year after the FDA warned about several studies linking testosterone therapy with up to a 2-fold increased risk of heart attack.
Earlier this year, the FDA required label changes to warn about a possible increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and death. Approximately 1,500 lawsuits have been filed against several manufacturers of testosterone products by men who were injured by these side effects.
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