Testosterone therapy along with its benefits of improving vitality, sex drive, and memory in older men has also been associated with an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. But with a new research, which shows that testosterone therapy does not increase risk of heart conditions, men who have found a new lease of life with such medications can continue to enjoy the vitality they provide.

The research appears in the July 2 issue of the Annals of Pharmacotherapy. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, was based on the examination of 25,420 men who were 66 years or older. The men were Medicare beneficiaries and had been treated with testosterone for up to eight years.

"Our investigation was motivated by a growing concern, in the U.S. and internationally, that testosterone therapy increases men's risk for cardiovascular disease, specifically heart attack and stroke," said Jacques Baillargeon, UTMB associate professor of epidemiology in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health and lead author of the study. "This concern has increased in the last few years based on the results of a clinical trial and two observational studies. It is important to note, however, that there is a large body of evidence that is consistent with our finding of no increased risk of heart attack associated with testosterone use." 

Testosterone, the male hormone produced in the testicles, helps maintain bone density, red blood cell production, libido, and muscle strength and mass. Aging is a natural cause of testosterone decline and can result in physical changes such as hair loss, changes in sexual functions, or sleep patterns. 

Testosterone therapy has been known to re-energize men with flagging energy levels and sex-drives. But several researches have also warned of potential side effects, such as an increased risk of heart attacks, sleep apnea, and increasing risk of prostate cancer. 

The UTMB study evaluated enrollment and claims from Medicare data of a clinically and socioeconomically diverse national sample that had undergone testosterone treatment from 1997-2005. These were compared with a control group of the same age, race, Medicaid eligibility, and health status, but who had not received testosterone treatment. 

The analyses show that testosterone therapy was not associated with an increased risk of heart attack. Further, testosterone users with a higher probability of cardiovascular problems had a lower rate of heart attacks in comparison to equivalent patients who did not receive testosterone therapy. 

"This is a rigorous analysis of a large number of patients," Baillargeon said. "Our findings did not show an increased risk of heart attack associated with testosterone use in older men." 

This new UTMB research comes at a time when the Food and Drug Administration gave a new warning for testosterone products, which requires the product label to caution users about the risk of venous blood clots.

The warning comes shortly after the announcement that several testosterone treatment manufacturers, including Abbott Laboratories, AbbVie Inc., Eli Lilly and Company, Pfizer and Actavis, are facing a consolidated multidistrict litigation in Federal Court based on claims that they hid the risks of using testosterone treatments. 

Considering the conflicting nature of previous testosterone risk studies and the fact that the number of men using testosterone prescriptions has more than quadrupled since 2000, doctors feel that more research needs to be carried out in this field.

As Baillargeon points out, “large–scale, randomized clinical trials will provide more definitive evidence regarding these risks in the coming years."

Source: Baillargeon J, Urban R, Kuo Y, et. al. Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Older Men Receiving Testosterone Therapy. Annals of Pharmacotherapy. 2014.