Testosterone Drug-Makers Accused of Disease Mongering

Testosterone Drug-Makers Accused of Disease MongeringJune 17, 2015 — A growing number of experts are calling out pharmaceutical companies for engaging in “disease mongering” to promote testosterone therapy for common, non-specific age-related symptoms.

Drug-makers like AbbVie blasted late-night TV airwaves with ads telling men to talk to their doctor about “Low T” if they experienced ailments like fatigue, depressed mood, poor sex drive, and weight gain.

Over the next few years, prescriptions for products like AndroGel skyrocketed — and about a quarter of prescriptions were written to men who had never even had their testosterone levels checked.

The Washington Post published a scathing editorial by two professors of medicine at Dartmouth. They accused drug-makers of blurring the line between public health messages that increase awareness about diseases and infomercials meant to “sell a disease to sell a drug,” and wrote:

“It’s a simple formula: The more diagnoses doctors make, the more prescriptions they can write. The ‘Is It Low-T?’ campaign appears to be about getting as many men as possible diagnosed.”

The FDA says its hands are tied because the ads do not name a specific drug. However, experts call this a “regulatory blind spot” and said the ads do specifically mention testosterone. It is not clear why regulators have not taken stronger action against ads that “clearly crossed the line into off-label drug promotion,” experts said.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society listed some startling statistics:

  • In the last decade, testosterone prescriptions have increased 10X in the United States and 40X in Canada.
  • Pharmaceutical sales of testosterone increased from $324 million to $2 billion from 2002-2012.
  • The number of prescriptions climbed from 100 million to 500 million from 2007-2012.

Unfortunately, only after millions of men used the drugs did researchers notice higher rates of heart attack, stroke, and sudden death. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed, but it is not clear if anyone will be held accountable.

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