Testosterone use among older men has drastically increased over the past decade, with more men being tested for low testosterone levels and subsequently being prescribed low T treatments. According to a new report from the Endocrine Society, many patients using testosterone therapy appear to have normal testosterone levels and do not meet clinical guidelines for use of testosterone medications.
Testosterone treatments are primarily prescribed to male patients who meet the diagnostic criteria for hypogonadism, a condition that results from low testosterone. A decrease in testosterone production is normal as men age. Yet, they are being prescribed low T treatments even though they may not necessarily meet the diagnostic criteria for hypogonadism.
The study analyzed commercial and Medicare insurance claims from the United States and general practitioner healthcare records from the United Kingdom. Results showed that 410,019 American men and 6,858 UK men started taking low T treatments between 2000 and 2011. In total, 1.1 million American men and 66,000 UK men had their testosterone levels tested during the same timeframe.
The number of American men taking low T treatments quadrupled since 2000 compared to an increase of one-third among UK men. Most of the men who began taking testosterone treatments had not had their testosterone levels checked since the initial test prior to taking treatments.
“Over the past decade, older and middle-aged men are increasingly being tested for low testosterone levels and being prescribed testosterone medications, particularly in the United States,” said J. Bradley Layton of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in a Washington Post article. “While direct-to-consumer advertising and the availability of convenient topical gels may be driving more men to seek treatment, our study suggests that many of those who start taking testosterone may not have a clear medical indication to do so.”
Recent research has linked low T treatments to an increased risk of health problems such as blood clots, heart attack, stroke, mini stroke or death. In 2011 alone, more than 5 million testosterone prescriptions were written for American men. Testosterone therapy is most often administered as a gel, patch or injection.