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Risks of testosterone replacement therapy in ageing men.

Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2004 Nov;3(6):599-606

Tan RS, Salazar JA.

Baylor College of Medicine and University of Texas Houston, Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Texas, USA.

Testosterone has been available to practitioners for several decades. However, testosterone prescriptions have increased in recent years partly because of the introduction of newer delivery systems that are topical and have good bioavailability. In the US alone, approximately 2 million prescriptions for testosterone were written in 2002. This represents a 30% increase from 2001 and a 170% increase from 1999. There has also been a 500% increase in prescription sales in the past 10 years. The rise in prescriptions may be in part due to the increasing recognition of hypogonadism in ageing males or andropause. Treatment relating to hypogonadism has relieved symptoms and improved the quality of life of many individuals. Epidemiological studies point toward an association with increased morbidity and mortality, with low testosterone states in ageing males. For example, there is a higher prevalence of depression, coronary heart disease, osteoporosis, fracture rates, frailty and even dementia with low testosterone states. Recently, there have been some concerns raised regarding the long-term safety of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) from the Institute of Medicine. Current evidence suggests no causal relationship between prostate cancer and physiological dosing of testosterone, especially with careful selection and monitoring of patients. Cardiovascular risks have, overall, been neutral, although suggestions have been made that there are positive vasodilatory properties with testosterone. Mild eythrocytosis can be a common side effect of TRT, but thromboembolic events have rarely been reported in the literature. This paper addresses the evidence to date regarding the safety aspects of TRT. The medical-legal implications of TRT for men at this point in time is also discussed.

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