Nation + World

Posted by Dr. Michael White, Updated on January 5th, 2018
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This photo provided by Eli Lilly & Co. shows the drug Axiron. Axiron, an underarm gel that rolls on like deodorant, is one drug used by men struggling with symptoms of growing older associated with low testosterone such as poor sex drive, weight gain and fatigue. It's one of a growing number of prescription gels, patches and injections aimed at boosting levels of the male hormone that begins to decline in men after about age 40. Drugmakers and some doctors claim testosterone therapy can reverse signs of aging _ even though the safety and effectiveness of such treatments is unclear. (AP Photo/Eli Lilly & Co.)

Washington "Are you falling asleep after dinner?"

"Do you have a decrease in libido?"

"Have you noticed a recent deterioration in your ability to play sports?"

"It could be Low-T."

Welcome to the latest big marketing push by U.S. drug companies. In this case, its a web page for Abbott Laboratories Androgel, a billion-dollar selling testosterone gel used by millions of American men struggling with the symptoms of growing older that are associated with low testosterone, such as poor sex drive, weight gain and fatigue.

Androgel is one of a growing number of prescription gels, patches and injections aimed at boosting the male hormone that begins to decline after about age 40. Drugmakers and some doctors claim testosterone therapy can reverse some of the signs of aging even though the safety and effectiveness of such treatments is unclear.

"The problem is that we dont have any evidence that prescribing testosterone to older men with relatively low testosterone levels does any good," says Dr. Sergei Romashkan, who oversees clinical trials for the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health conglomerate of research centers.

Low testosterone is the latest example of a once-natural part of getting old that has become a target for medical treatment. Bladder problems, brittle bones and hot flashes have followed a similar path: from inconvenient facts of life, to ailments that can be treated with drugs. The rise of such therapies is being fueled by both demographics and industry marketing.

Baby boomers are living longer and looking for ways to deal with the infirmities of old age: Life expectancy in the U.S. today is 78 years, up from 69 years a half-century ago. And companies have stepped up their marketing to the older crowd: Spending on print and television ads promoting testosterone by firms like Abbott and Eli Lilly has risen more than 170 percent in the last three years to more than $14 million in 2011, according to advertising tracker Kantar Media.

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