A pair of medical researchers has accused the manufacturers of AndroGel and other prescription testosterone treatments of engaging in “disease mongering” to drive sales of the medications. The charges, which were made in an editorial that appeared this month in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, echo allegations put forth by testosterone lawsuit plaintiffs, who claim marketing for the drugs tried to convince patients and doctors that low libido, fatigue and other symptoms normally associated with male aging were actually the result of low testosterone.
According to the editorial, prescriptions for testosterone therapy nearly doubled in the three years ending in 2013, to 2.3 million. While the drugs are only approved to treat hypogonadism (low testosterone) associated with an underlying medical condition, Thomas Perls, a professor at Boston University and geriatrician at Boston Medical Center, told Forbes.com that pharmaceutical companies “market the idea that men go through something similar to menopause, where they have these marked declines in testosterone and all these symptoms that we normally attribute to aging.” He and his co-author, David Handelsman, a professor at the University of Sydney in Australia, consider this to be “disease mongering.”
Their editorial calls on the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to team up with the Federal Trade Commission to ban testosterone commercials and other advertising that suggest the drugs could remedy “contrived” conditions, such as “andropause.” They also want the FDA to require that doctors prove a patient actually needs testosterone treatment for an approved condition before prescribing the drugs.
Forbes.com notes that some drug makers pulled back on their testosterone advertising last year, after the FDA announced it was reviewing the heart risks potentially associated with the drugs. Since then, the agency has ordered manufacturers to add new information to their products’ labels regarding an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and to modify prescribing information to clarify their approved uses.
The FDA’s announcement of its review also prompted hundreds of men to file testosterone lawsuits after they allegedly experienced heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and other cardiovascular problems tied to the use of low T therapy. Those claims also allege that sales of testosterone treatments were driven by marketing claims that induced otherwise healthy men to use the medications to alleviate issues that were merely the result of the aging process.