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Testosterone Supplements Linked to Heart Attacks in Young Men

Television and print advertisements for Low T supplements like Androgel or Axiron are becoming increasingly common. Though the FDA has only approved the drug for patients with low testosterone levels abbreviated in the medical field as “Low T,” off-label prescriptions for such medications have doubled in four years to 430 million, according to CBS News. There have been warnings for women about the dangers of contact with testosterone therapy supplements for quite some time, but multiple recent studies found compelling evidence that Low T medications such as Androgel may triple the risk of a heart attack in men under 65 within 90 days of starting treatment. According to Bloomberg News, the “U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it will re-examine the safety of testosterone replacement drugs after two studies showed a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes in men who use them.”

The alarming new information comes as the market for Low T treatment has grown to $1.6 billion annually. The booming industry is being fed by seductive advertisements peddling the drug as a fountain of youth, driving sales and increasing prescriptions for even those with normal testosterone levels. A recent study published in the PLoS One medical journal found definitively that, “In older men, and in younger men with pre-existing diagnosed heart disease, the risk of MI [heart attack] following initiation of TT prescription is substantially increased.” Dr. Steve Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, is quoted by CBS News as explaining, “We don’t know very much about this therapy. What’s going on is a giant experiment with American men’s health at stake because we don’t have the long-term data on the safety of these products.”

Five men are now suing Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie Inc for allegedly hiding the dangers associated with Androgel. The men claim that the pharmaceutical giant “‘deceived potential AndroGel users by relaying positive information through the press, including testimonials from retired professional athletes’ and statistics suggesting a widespread need for the drugs, ‘while downplaying known adverse and serious health risks,’ according to the complaints,” Bloomberg News reports. The men, who are seeking unspecified damages, are all under 65 years old and have suffered from a heart attack, stroke, or what was referred to as a “mini stroke.”

A study of 8,000 men treated in the Veterans Health Administration found that testosterone therapy drugs can also be linked to worsened sleep apnea, atherosclerosis and coronary plaque in addition to raising the risk of heart attack, stroke and dying by 29 percent, according to Bloomberg News. Although an exact cause for the spike is not immediately known, evidence may suggest that drugs like Androgel and Axiron may increase clotting within the arteries supplying the heart. The FDA is reviewing the claims.

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Sources:
Finkle, William D. PLoS One. “Increased Risk of Non-Fatal Myocardial Infarction Following Testosterone Therapy Prescription in Men.” January 29, 2014.
Harris, Andrew. Bloomberg News. “Abbott Labs Sued by Five Men Claiming Androgel Injuries.” February 5, 2014.
Healey, Melissa. Los Angeles Times. “Testosterone Prescriptions Linked to Heart Attack.” January 29, 2014.
Healey, Melissa. Los Angeles Times. “Testosterone medication may boost risk of heart attack, stroke, death.” November 5, 2013.
Lapook, Jonathan. CBS News. “Testosterone Supplements Linked to Heart Attacks in New Study.” January 29, 2014.