They seem to be everywhere. Ads warning aging men about low testosterone are asking them if their work is suffering, and if their sex drive isn't what it used to be. These ads caution men to talk to their doctors to find out if they have low testosterone, aka Low T.
However, according to the Chicago Tribune, researchers say it's unclear as to whether the age-related issues -- decreased sex drive, less energy, reduced muscle mass -- are the result of low testosterone or other factors.
A growing number of prescription gels, patches and injections are now aimed at boosting low testosterone. Drug makers and some doctors claim this testosterone therapy can reverse some of the signs of aging.
In the United States, a growing number of men now take testosterone to reverse the gradual, age-related decline of the hormone. In fact, a study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine said that the number of men 40 and older being treated for Low T has more than tripled from 2001-2011.
Yet many physicians believe it is, in large part, an invented condition. Last year, drug companies in the United States spent $3.47 billion on advertising directly to consumers, according to FiercePharma.com.
A study in Nature Review Endocrinology said thatprescription sales of testosterone nationally reached $1.6 billion in 2011, up from about $18 million in 1988.
That’s a lot of money for an issue that has inspired substantial debate over whether decreasing testosterone levels need to be treated at all. Most experts say testosterone is about as effective as anti-wrinkle face cream when used to reverse the effects of aging.
But drug companies defend their efforts to reach out to potential users. Testosterone deficiency is “a recognized clinical condition, with signs/symptoms that can impact millions of patients,” Morry B. Smulevitz, a director of communications for thepharmaceutical company Lilly, told NY Times.
He said Lilly did not condone the use of testosterone for purposes other than those approved by the F.D.A. and it “encouraged patients to talk to their physicians to weigh the risks and benefits.”