Study Shows How Testosterone Side Effects Could Increase Risk of Heart Attack

Amid continuing concerns about the potential link between side effects testosterone replacement drugs and heart attacks, the findings of new research suggest that higher testosterone levels may cause calcium to build up in the blood, potentially explaining why men generally have a higher risk of heart attacks than women.

In a study published this week in the medical journal Scientific Reports, researchers from the United Kingdom examined the effects of testosterone among mice on blood vessel tissue, concluding that testosterone may trigger blood cells to create a calcium build up in the blood, which may increase the risk of blocked arteries and heart attacks.

Researchers found that testosterone caused calcification, and that if the androgen receptors (AR) in the cells were removed, there was less calcium produced.

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Vascular calcification can cause blood cells to harden and thicken. This causes the heart to work harder to pump those blood cells through the vascular system, increasing the risk of a heart attack and other heart problems. It can also cause heart valves to have problems opening and closing.

The findings could explain why men are more at risk of heart attack than women, according to the researchers, but the authors noted that additional studies need to be done.

“This study reveals AR expression in diseased vascular tissue and highlights a potential link between pharmacological androgen use and vascular calcification,” the researchers noted. “We note that this is achieved in a small sample, and these data need to be extended with further samples in future investigations.”

Testosterone Drug Heart Risks

Over the past two years, there have been increasing concerns among consumers and the medical community about the heart risks associated with popular testosterone replacement drugs, such as Androgel, Testim and Axiron.

In November 2013, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) indicated that certain men who began taking testosterone drugs following coronary angiography were more likely to suffer a sudden heart attack, stroke or death.

These findings were followed by another study published by the medical journal PLoSOne in January 2014, which found that side effects of testosterone drugs may double the risk of heart attacks for men over the age of 65, regardless of their prior health condition, as well as double the risk for younger men with a prior history of heart disease.

In January 2015, another study published in the medical journal Pharmacotherapy found that first time testosterone users may be 40% more likely to have a heart attack when compared to men who did not use the drugs.

In response to the findings, the FDA launched an investigation into the medications and the widespread overuse of the medications for “lifestyle reasons”, such as increasing energy levels, sex drive or stamina. This led the federal drug regulators to require new heart warnings for testosterone drugs and to urge doctors to only prescribe the medications for men with a true medical condition causing testosterone deficiencies.

The findings of this latest study published by Scientific Reports may help explain why the use of testosterone replacement drugs may further increase the risk of heart attacks for some men.

Testosterone Lawsuits

There are currently nearly 5,300 testosterone replacement injury lawsuits pending throughout the federal court system, each involving similar allegations that the manufacturers of Androgel, Testim and other popular drugs failed to adequately warn men and the medical community about the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Given the common questions of law and fact raised in the lawsuits, cases filed throughout the federal court system have been consolidated for pretrial proceedings as part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL), which is centralized before U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly in the Northern District of Illinois.

As part of the coordinated proceedings, a series of Androgel trials are expected to begin next year, which are designed to help the parties gauge how juries may respond to certain evidence and testimony that is likely to be repeated throughout the litigation.

If testosterone drug injury settlements are not reached following bellwether trials in the MDL, the drug makers may face thousands of individual trial dates in U.S. District Courts nationwide over failure to warn about the heart risks associated with their medications.

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