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The findings of new research suggest that men may face an increased risk of serious heart problems from side effects of testosterone treatments, which have become increasingly popular amid direct-to-consumers marketing of “Low T” ads.
In a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers from the VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver indicate that men taking testosterone therapy may face an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and even death during the years after taking the drugs.
Testosterone therapy is increasingly being prescribed to men who have trouble producing the hormone on their own. The condition, known as hypogonadism, results in lower strength and energy and reduced sexual function. However, not all men taking testosterone therapy have actually been diagnosed with hypogonadism.
Researchers conducted a retrospective national cohort study of more than 8,700 men with low testosterone levels. Out of 1,223 patients who took testosterone treatments, in just a year and a half 67 died, 23 had heart attacks, and 33 had strokes. The researchers found that the rate of events was 25.7% in the group that took testosterone therapy drugs, while the rate among the 7,486 patients that did not was only 19.9%.
The study notes that the extent of testosterone side effects on the heart and on the lifespan of users are not known. One recent trial on testosterone in older men was cancelled due to the risk of cardiovascular events to test subjects, the researchers revealed.
“Our findings raise some uncertainty regarding the potential safety of testosterone use in men,” the researchers concluded. “Although physicians should continue to discuss the symptomatic benefits of testosterone therapy with patients, it is also important to inform patients that long-term risks are unknown and there is a possibility that testosterone therapy may be harmful.”
According to the research, the use of testosterone therapy has increased more than five-fold from 2000 to 2011. There were 5.3 million prescriptions for testosterone treatments in 2011, with a market of $1.6 billion.