Men turning to testosterone for edge in daily life; doc warns of potential side effectson September 21, 2012 @ 10:42 am (Updated: 1:53 pm - 9/21/12 )
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. (AP/Eli Lilly & Co.)
Everyone's aware of athletes taking advantage of a little testosterone boost to enhance performance, but there's a new trend of regular old Joes looking to it for an edge in everyday life.
"I know guys that take it, older guys, and they swear by it," says Ross and Burbank guest host David Boze. "They say that they feel younger. They're working harder. They're more energetic. They feel better than they have in years."
Prescriptions for the hormone have increased nearly 90 percent over the last five years, according to IMS Health. Last year, global sales reached $1.9 billion.
The latest marketing push by drugmakers is for easy-to-use gels and patches that are aimed at a much broader population of otherwise healthy older men with low testosterone.
But government researchers worry that medical treatments have gotten ahead of the science. While people may experience these positive effects, there is also research that points to negative side effects associated with testosterone use.
Dr. Edmund Sabanegh, Chairman of urology at the Cleveland Clinic, says additional testosterone can raise blood count which can cause clots. There have also been reports of cardiac side effects and worsening of prostate conditions. All testosterone drugs carry a warning that the hormone should not be given to men who have a personal or family history of prostate cancer.
"The problem is we can't really predict who is going to have those side effects, and we can't predict the timing of it, so there are men that may be on this medication for years and really there is no long term data that says it's safe."
For the right patient, someone whose low testosterone condition has been demonstrated by blood tests, he says supplements can bring a marked improvement, but he warns it shouldn't be taken by just everyone.
"More and more we're seeing patients that haven't had the blood test or have normal blood tests but want to try testosterone for an edge at work," says Sabanegh.
He says everyone wants an easy fix to up their vitality and quality of life, but testosterone has some potentially significant side effects and people should be very careful about using it.
"I think what we really need are responsible physicians to try to make sure we give the right medicine to the right patient."
For otherwise healthy men just looking to up the ante and improve their energy level, Sabanegh suggests living a healthy lifestyle with a good amount of exercise.
By JAMIE GRISWOLD, MyNorthwest.com Editor
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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