While testosterone therapy is not completely new, it has gained increased popularity over the years. Recently, U.S. drug manufacturers, such as Abbott Laboratories, have targeted men with medication that promises to boost testosterone levels and improve symptoms.
The hormone testosterone is both produced in men and women but men produce more of it. The hormone is produced largely in the testicles and it helps maintain bone density, muscle strength, sex drive, sperm production and a host of other essential bodily functions. As a man ages the production of testosterone slowly decreases. According to the Mayo Clinic, testosterone levels decreases approximately by one percent a year after the age of 30.
With an increase in advertisement for symptoms of low testosterone, several men are seeking treatment. New treatment options include Abbott Laboratories' Androgel, which is a topical gel that can be applied to shoulders and arms. Watson Pharmaceuticals is marketing the Androderm patch, which releases testosterone into an individual's bloodstream. Eli Lilly and Co.'s Axiron is an underarm gel that is applied the same way one would apply deodorant.
However, many physicianss uch as Dr. Sergai Romashkan, speaking to Time, who oversees clinical trials for the National Institute on Aging, believes there is no evidence that supports prescribing testosterone to older men.
Additionally, the government is concerned manufacturers may be making hasty decisions regarding science. According to Dr. Natan Bar-Chama, a male reproductive specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, once testosterone levels decline there is little information that suggest what a "normal number" may be for older men.
There is also no real evidence that supports testosterone therapy boost men's symptoms. Conversely, there is evidence that demonstrates the severe health risks associated with this particular therapy.
In a study conducted by researchers from Boston University's School of Medicine, it was discovered patients taking the hormone is five times likely to suffer from a serious heart attack. Other trials suggest that prostate cancer is notably higher in men taking testosterone.
Currently, The National Institute of aging is conducting trials on 800 men to conclusively answer the question whether or not testosterone therapy improves walking ability, sexual function, energy, memory and blood cell count in men 65 years and older. But those results aren't expected until 2014
Manufacturers such as Abbott Laboratories do acknowledge that more information is needed and they are currently funding the National Institute of Aging's testosterone trial.