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Consumer Reports: Oversold Testosterone Treatments

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Drugmakers are spending big money promoting prescription testosterone. But Consumer Reports says most men don’t need it. (Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013)

    Two years ago drugmakers spent 14-million dollars promoting prescription testosterone. Last year they spent 100-million dollars. And sales are soaring, topping two billion dollars in 2012. But Consumer Reports says most men don’t need testosterone treatments.

    Even if you’re worried about erectile dysfunction, treatment with testosterone usually isn’t the answer. Erectile dysfunction almost always stems from other problems: reduced blood flow, emotional problems, or a drug side effect.

    And using testosterone treatments, which can cost $400 a month or more, has serious risks. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men using one testosterone gel, Testim 1%, for six months had more heart attacks and other cardiovascular events.

    Testosterone treatments can have serious side effects, including worsening of enlarged prostate, possible increased risk of prostate cancer, enlarged breasts, sleep apnea, blood clots in the legs, and for younger men, lower fertility.

    Consumer Reports’ medical experts say starting testosterone is a big deal. It should only be done after a long and careful conversation between doctor and patient. And there’s another caution: family members being accidently exposed to testosterone gels. The hormone can cause women to develop male characteristics and children to enter an early puberty.

    The company that makes Axiron did not return NBC 5's calls for comment. The makers of Testim said they had no comment.

    NBC 5 contacted AbbVie, the makers of Androgel, and they offered this statement:

    Hypogonadism is a chronic but treatable condition recognized by The Endocrine Society.

    AndroGel has more than 10 years of clinical, safety, published and post-marketing data, with therapeutic risks well documented in the prescribing label. It is approved by the FDA to treat adult men with low or no testosterone (hypogonadism) who have been diagnosed by a physician.

    We encourage discussion between physicians and patients that leads to proper diagnosis based on symptoms, lab tests and a patient's other health needs.

    Eli Lilly and Co., the maker of Axiron, provided NBC 5 with this statement:

    • Axiron is a prescription medication, approved by the FDA, for men with certain conditions associated with a deficiency or absence of testosterone.
    • Testosterone deficiency is a recognized clinical condition, with signs/symptoms that can impact millions of patients.
    • Lilly does not condone the use of our medicine for off-label purposes.
    • Most importantly, we encourage patients to talk to their physicians to weigh the benefits and risks before taking any prescription.

    Regarding DTC advertising:

    • Given the increasingly complex healthcare system, we know that patients are seeking more information about diseases and treatments, asking questions, evaluating information and making choices. We believe that DTC advertising provides many benefits, including raising awareness of diseases and conditions that are often undiagnosed, untreated or under-treated. Advertising helps encourage patients with serious diseases to seek professional help.
    • Additionally, pharmaceutical companies spend significantly more on research and development than on marketing and promotion. For example, in 2006, the pharmaceutical industry spent $56.1 billion on research and development versus the combined drug promotional activities spending of $12 billion.[i]
    • As a company responsible for developing new, innovative medicines, Lilly is committed to providing advertising that is truthful, accurate, and balanced. To that end, we work diligently to adhere to internal standards, FDA requirements and PhRMA’s Guiding Principles when designing and launching DTC communications.

    Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.