TUESDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- If you're a man suffering
from low energy or libido, the drug industry is eager to help.
So-called "Low T" -- low testosterone -- has become a common catch
phrase in TV commercials, and sales of testosterone supplements are
on the rise in the United States.
But a new study suggests that many clinics aren't disclosing the
risks of testosterone treatment on their websites.
Researchers found that fewer than a third of 70 clinic websites
mentioned the side effects of testosterone, although almost all
touted potential benefits of treatment like improved sex drive and
greater energy. Twenty-one percent, meanwhile, incorrectly denied
that hormone treatment is linked to significant side effects.
Study co-author Dr. Kevin McVary, chairman of urology at
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, criticized the
clinics that failed to be open about the risks of testosterone
treatment. "It's unprofessional, and it reeks of snake oil," he
said. "People should beware of using the Internet for medical
advice regarding testosterone."
Testosterone, which is mainly produced in the testicles, is
considered the male hormone (although it does occur in smaller
quantities in women). Testosterone levels dip as men grow older.
According to the Urology Care Foundation, researchers have found
that about 20 percent of men over the age of 60 have low
testosterone, which can lead to low libido, weak erections and
Testosterone supplements are now available in a variety of
forms, including injections, patches and gels that patients rub
into the skin. The cost can run from $75 to $300 a month, said Dr.
John Amory, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington
While testosterone treatment can indeed be beneficial, the side
effects can include lower levels of healthy HDL cholesterol,
increased male pattern baldness and possible harm to prostate
health, Amory said.
Oral testosterone can lead to liver problems, study co-author
McVary said, and testosterone overuse -- such as by some
bodybuilders -- can lead to rage, acne, congestive heart failure
and worsening of urinary symptoms.
In the new study, the researchers looked at the websites of 70
providers of testosterone supplements in Chicago, Houston, Los
Angeles, New York City and Philadelphia. One-third were run by
people who weren't physicians.
Only 27 percent described side effects of testosterone
supplements, while 95 percent touted benefits. About a third of the
sites run by urologists or endocrinologists described male breast
growth as a potential risk. Seven percent of all the sites,
however, denied breast growth as a potential side effect.
Amory said the new research appears to be valid and reflects "my
impression of the way in which this [testosterone] is being
oversold to patients."
McVary and Amory said they don't know if the clinics are acting
legally when they omit information about testosterone risks.
However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires drug
companies to describe the risks of prescription medications in
What to do? When it comes to medical information on the
Internet, McVary said, "only go to legitimate sites that are
sponsored by a medical organization that is known to you."
The findings were scheduled to be released Tuesday at the
American Urological Association annual meeting in San Diego. The
data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until
published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more about
testosterone, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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