Testosterone marketing draws skepticism

Written by Dr. Michael White, Published on September 10th, 2012
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By By MATTHEW PERRONE

September 10, 2012 12:00 AM

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 the nation's drug companies. In this case, it's 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 are unclear.

"The problem is that we don't 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.

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Testosterone marketing draws skepticism

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