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Low T? “If you build it, he will come.”

November 11, 2013

FieldofDreams

The pharmaceutical industry, a.k.a. Big Pharma, must have loved it every time the voice in Field of Dreams whispered “if you build it, he will come” because that is exactly what has happened with the skyrocketing sales of testosterone. Except Big Pharma hasn’t been whispering, they’ve been shouting. According to Consumers Reports ad spending on testosterone increased from $14.3 million in 2011 to $107.3 million in 2012. [1]

And, the shouts have been heard. An August 2013 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that sales of testosterone tripled from 2001 to 2011 [2],[3] and Global Industry Analysts has forecast that the testosterone market will reach $5 billion by 2018 [4]. It is estimated that testosterone is prescribed for 2.9% of all US males over the age of 40. [5]

Big Pharma has long been accused of increasing sales by “selling sickness” and in fact there is a website of that name devoted to the issue [6]. In a way it only makes sense. After all, the drug companies are in business to increase sales and maximize profits and one of the best ways to achieve success in any business is by developing markets. The only problem is that inducing the demand [7] for a new type of smartphone is intrinsically different from inducing demand for a drug by inventing a disease.

That is what appears to be the case with “Low T.” Experts argue that there is no such disease as “Low T” and that the only indication for androgen therapy is a confirmed diagnosis of hypogonadism – a rare condition. [8],[9] The potential side effects of androgen therapy are extensive and serious. Why then is business booming?

Men can’t seem to resist trying to holding onto their youth – and their virility. They can’t accept the fact that as we age, things will change and not all of those changes are diseases that need to be treated. And yet, there is something in the male brain that craves for the energy (read, libido!) he had when he was 17. Maybe that doesn’t sound altogether awful but the problem is that the evidence, anecdotes aside, is still out as to whether testosterone supplementation will make any real difference in the libido or any of the areas for which it is touted.

The message to middle aged men is that you have been target by one of the most sophisticated marketing industries in the world to buy a product that hasn’t been shown to work for a disease that doesn’t exist and has serious side effects not the least of which are increased risk of heart attacks [10],[11]. Don’t fall for that story. Is the possibility of recapturing that 17 year old libido really worth it? Apparently for millions of men over 40 it is.

Personally, I’m just sick of being bombarded by commercials for testosterone. Besides, one could effectively argue that many of the world’s woes are caused by excess testosterone so why would we want to artificially increase it?

 


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