Health Canada Warning for Heart Risks of Testosterone TherapyJuly 21, 2014 — Health Canada is warning about the risk of serious and potentially life-threatening cardiovascular problems associated with testosterone replacement products.

The agency completed a safety review and found “a growing body of evidence” for serious and potentially deadly heart or blood vessel problems, including heart attack, stroke, blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolism) or legs (deep vein thrombosis), and increased or irregular heart-rate.

The agency also recommends assessing patients for cardiovascular risk-factors before starting testosterone therapy. While patients are on testosterone, they should be monitored for possible serious adverse events.

Health Canada is working with manufacturers to update product labels to include this risk information. In the meantime, they recommend that testosterone therapy should not be used in men with non-specific symptoms unless laboratory tests confirm low testosterone levels and other explanations have been ruled out.

Between 2000 and 2011, the use of testosterone increased five-fold to more than 5.3 million prescriptions. A study published last year found that only about half of men on testosterone were actually diagnosed with hypogonadism, and 25% received a prescription without ever having a blood test.

When to Call a Doctor

Health Canada also recommends that patients should seek medical attention if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden numbness in the face, arm or leg
  • Sudden difficulty speaking or understanding
  • Trouble with walking or seeing
  • Headache, light-headedness, dizziness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Sweating
  • Coughing up blood
  • Swelling or pain in the leg (including ankle and foot)
  • Changes in skin color (e.g., turning pale, red or blue)
  • Fluttering in your chest
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Fainting or near fainting

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