Well, hooray to the New York Times. The flagship of American journalism has woken up to the fact that yet another medical fiasco may have been perpetuated through the magic of today’s marketing monsters.
In this case the victims are men, in particular those suffering from low testosterone, or Low T, as the marketers have phrased it. These men are victims not only of their vanity in failing to accept the aging process but victims of being seduced into buying medications they not only might not have ever needed, but may eventually`prove catastrophic to their health.
The products in question are testosterone therapy medications, prescribed, marketed and sold as the fountain of youth to men suffering from a lack of testosterone.
The symptoms? Fatigue, lack of sexual drive, depression, muscle fatigue and … well, just about a whole boatload of other physical and mental drop-offs that men have been experiencing since the beginning of time as they age.
The problem? Many of these men may not even have low testosterone and are still being prescribed these medications.
The danger? Well, dying of a heart attack or stroke are two pretty damn stiff penalties to pay for trying to stay young.
The payoff? The drug manufacturers who produce these medications and do such a marvelous job of making older men look young in commercials make a whole bunch of money.
As the Times put it in a devastatingly brutal editorial based on the findings of a recent medical research study in this area:
“The study, published last week in the online journal PLOS One, provides the most compelling evidence yet that many American men have embarked on a perilous course of overtreatment. Testosterone is clearly indicated to treat abnormally low levels of the hormone because of genetic or pathological causes, a condition known as hypogonadism. But a huge upsurge in prescriptions in recent years suggests that testosterone is now being prescribed to men who are simply reluctant to accept the fact that they are getting older. In many cases, doctors are prescribing testosterone without even ascertaining whether a patient’s testosterone levels are actually low or whether he has a medical condition that justifies it.”
So, what can happen when men are prescribed testosterone therapy medications when they might not really need it? Again, the Times editorial writer details the findings of the study:
“A large study has found substantial risks in prescribing testosterone to middle-age and older men for a variety of ailments. One part of the study found that testosterone doubled the risk of cardiovascular disease in more than 7,000 men who were 65 years old or older, essentially confirming findings in previous studies. The other part found that testosterone almost tripled the risk of heart attacks in a group of more than 48,000 middle-age men with previous histories of heart disease. The harm in both cases occurred within 90 days of receiving the prescription.”
A surprising sidelight to this problem is another conclusion from the study, which was compiled by research from experts at the University of California, Los Angeles; the National Institutes of Health; and Consolidated Research.
The researchers found that Viagra and Cialis, two hugely successful drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction, did not have a similar danger of putting men at risk of heart attacks and strokes.
So, what are the medications that are most commonly used to treat low testosterone and may possibly be putting men, particularly those with a history of heart problems, at risk of suffering a stroke, heart attack or other serious heart problem?
The drugs listed below are FDA-approved medications most frequently used be men in an attempt to treat the symptoms of low testosterone:
Some of these medications have been mentioned in testosterone therapy lawsuits in which men who have suffered life-threatening heart problems have sued the manufacturers.
The Times argues that drug companies “have shamelessly pushed the notion, to doctors and to the public, that their testosterone-boosting product can overcome a supposed disease called “low T,” which is characterized by feelings of fatigue, loss of sexual drive, depressed moods, an increase in body fat and decrease in muscle strength, among other symptoms.”
The editorial also says “The overselling is reminiscent of the reckless over prescribing of hormone replacement therapy to millions of American women as an anti-aging elixir until a large federal study in 2002 found that some pills were causing more harm than good.”
In this age of electronic immediacy in which information, entertainment and, yes, marketing, is a click away we’ve all become addicted to instant gratification.
While it’s most commonly women who are seen as desperate to maintain their looks the drug manufacturers have found there is no shortage of men piling into this vanity wagon, either, and have taken advantage of that fact to generate huge profits.
So, as the Times argues, men need to be more careful in determining exactly what their medical issues are and be wary of cures that they may not need and may be putting them at risk of more serious health dangers.
It would also be nice to see physicians take a little more time to decipher a patient’s symptoms and avoid overprescribing medications that may turn out to have fatal results.
The reality is that that the seductive powers of marketing are not going to go away and a lot of men might just live longer if they accepted the aging process more gracefully.
As they say, the cure may be worse than the illness.