Study shows testosterone therapy doubles the risk of heart attack

Testosterone therapy could help re-ignite your sex drive ... but it may also break your heart. A landmark study in the U.S. is raising some red flags about risks associated with testosterone products. (iStock)

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Though Low Testosterone or "Low-T" as its called can be a problem for some men, the use of the hormone has exploded across North America ... prescribed, say the critics, to people who do not need it and may be at risk. A new study into the effects of testosterone suggests its use doubles the risk of heart attacks.

 

Over the border, where it's legal to peddle prescription drugs direct-to-consumers, low testosterone, or "Low-T", has been an increasingly popular sales pitch over the past decade.

Testosterone deficiency is a real thing affecting a small number of men as they age. But sales of testosterone gels, patches, and pills in the U-S have quadrupled from 2001 to 2011. Today, 1 in 25 American men in their 60s takes testosterone. And last year, the hormone exceeded sales of Viagra in the U.S.


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Here's what Dr. John Aquino of the Ontario Men's Health Clinic in Toronto says about the patients he sees who worry about "Low-T":

"We talk about what the symptoms of testosterone deficiency can be, and also how common these symptoms can be overall, and that it's not always due to testosterone ... A lot of them overlap with the very common symptoms of life that everyone experiences from time to time... everything from fatigue, maybe a bit of depression or boredom and fluctuation or drop in sexual interest. So, you know, they read these things, they compare it to their own situations, and they think 'Oh, maybe I should look into that".

Dr. John Aquino, Ontario Men's Health Clinic

With promises to help bulk up muscle mass, increase energy, and re-invigorate sex drive... it's no surprise that some Canadian men are asking their doctors about testosterone.

But a landmark study in the United States is raising some red flags about risks associated with the hormone. And the new evidence has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, to announce it will be taking a new look at the safety of approved testosterone products.

William Finkle is an epidemiologist and CEO of Consolidated Research. He led the landmark study into the effect of testosterone, together with UCLA and the National Institutes of Health. He was in Los Angeles.


Dr. Alvaro Morales has been studying testosterone in Canada for years. He is a professor emeritus of urology at Queen's University. We asked him how the number of Canadian prescriptions for testosterone compares to the U.S.

"I would say that it's fairly similar. Probably the number of prescriptions in Canada is lower because we don't have the phenomenon of the direct advertisement to the public. But of course we receive a lot of television signals and publications in which direct advertisement of the use of testosterone is available. But, I think, with the proportions, it's a very similar situation".

Dr. Alvaro Morales

Alan Cassels is a drug-policy researcher at the University of Victoria and author of the book, Seeking Sickness: Medical Screening and the Misguided Hunt for Disease. He was in Seattle this morning.


We want to hear your opinion of Low-T. Do you have Low-T? Have you tried taking testosterone? If so, did you like it?

Tweet us @thecurrentcbc. Or e-mail us through our website. Find us on Facebook. Call us toll-free at 1 877 287 7366. And as always if you missed anything on The Current, grab a podcast.

This segment was produced by The Current's Peter Mitton.


Checking-In with Listeners

After our segment aired on the potential health risks associated with testosterone supplements for men, we heard from you. Here are a couple comments from listeners we aired on Tuesday.

"Twenty years ago physicians routinely told men with erectile dysfunction it's a natural aging process. Just go home and live with it. That was huge failure on the part of Doctors and a huge disservice to men. Taking that same tack with testosterone deficiency does the same disservice to men today".

Tom from Alberta sent us this email:

"At 46 I found my self diagnosed with lowT. My doctor had done the due diligence, but when it came to putting me on testosterone she left the decision up to me. I wanted to try it, and was surprised after I began therapy. My mood, my energy and overall outlook improved. I know it has worked for me, but I would not want to make that call for everyone".

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