The Male Menopause – Is Testosterone Therapy the Answer?

The Male Menopause – Is Testosterone Therapy the Answer?

Now that the Baby Boomers are entering their senior years, many men are recognizing that menopause is not just for women, and that there is a male version (andropause) characterized by diminishing testosterone levels.

Andropause Industry is Big Business

With the allure of testosterone patches, pills similar to ProSolution Plus, and gels, who needs needles? The andropause industry is growing exponentially. Typically, TV commercials promoting these products feature seemingly middle aged men with ripped abs and hard-to-believe libido claims, and an adoring (and usually younger) wife who nods in agreement. It’s proven to be an effective sell for aging men who may feel the best of their lives are behind them.

Over-blown marketing claims aside, many men do report that testosterone replacement therapy bestows a feeling of vitality, sexual energy and an overall sense of wellness. Without their testosterone “fix,” depression ensues, weight gain increases, and a mental fog and general lethargy set in.

Researchers and clinicians specializing in low testosterone therapy, however, are finding that effective treatment is more than just applying a gel or swallowing a pill, but rather a complete regimen of whole-body health that includes exercise, diet, and stress management. Many men learn about these whole health packages from pages like which help them to understand the symptoms and see if they are in need of treatment. Many of those providing these services do careful checks beforehand to make sure it is actually necessary. Nevertheless, the pharmaceutical industry has expanded the market for testosterone drugs, selling them to men who may not need them, and this has ethical doctors worried that increased health risks, still to be determined, are looming for millions of men in the near future.

Should Testosterone Therapy be Treated more Cautiously?

Big Pharma spent over $107 million last year to advertise the top brand-name testosterone drugs in the United States, according to Kantar Media. Public health officials warn that the use of testosterone is outpacing research into efficacy and possible dangers. As is, the drugs’ labels warn users about the potential for sleep apnea, cancers, congestive heart attacks and failure, and low sperm counts. But despite the warnings, men these days are just as desirous as women in their search for the elusive “Fountain of Youth,” and they are taking chances so they may drink from it. In fact, decades of male hormone studies have enabled researchers to record testosterone levels over time. These studies discovered that after age 30, men’s testosterone levels typically declined by 1 percent a year. To the pharmaceutical industry, that presented an entirely new profit stream. What was once considered normal, a part of the natural aging process, is now being promoted as an ailment that can and should be remedied.

The FDA approved the testosterone treatments Androderm, a skin patch, in 1995 and the original AndroGel in 2000, but only for men with verifiable testosterone deficiency. The agency expressly prohibited pharmaceutical companies from marketing branded drugs for uses that have not been federally approved as safe and effective. Yet, plenty of doctors have prescribed testosterone therapy products and drugs “off label,” which in effect gives the doctor carte blanche to dispense them even if the patient doesn’t meet the FDA definition of testosterone deficiency.

Before you Embark on Testosterone Therapy…

Men concerned about low testosterone should not begin using testosterone products before first having a frank discussion with their physician to determine if their symptoms warrant blood work to evaluate their hormone levels, say Damon Raskin M.D., a men’s health specialist and board certified internist in Los Angeles,”Low testosterone is not a new condition nor a disease state invented by the pharmaceutical industry,” says Dr. Raskin. “This is a very common condition, which finally has some excellent and convenient treatment options that can truly improve patients’ quality of life. I have treated many grateful patients and have seen remarkable results. However, doctors have to be responsible and cautious in whom they treat, and they must spend the time to monitor patients’ blood work and side effects carefully.” He warns that the FDA has not approved testosterone for anyone except men with medically verifiable low testosterone levels. The bottom line? Dr. Raskin urges men to see a men’s’ health doctor, have their hormone and baseline numbers (cholesterol, blood sugars) tested, and exercise caution when undergoing any hormone replacement therapy.

Damon Raskin, MD

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