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Pushing Drugs: Testosterone and Big Pharma

August 22, 2013

The questionnaire below is supplied by Abbvie labs, the makers of Androgel. Look it over. According to this quiz, just about every man I know could have “Low T.” They imply that there are millions who need their testosterone gel. Yet, as any man over 50 reading this will certainly notice, they are not as strong as they were in their prime, perhaps not as good as they once were at playing basketball, or for that matter any other competitive sport? Are you a bit more grumpy these days, even if it may be because you are concerned about your children, job, retirement, or the state of our economy? Do we all have this horrible “Low T disease?” Are you one of millions who need to call your doctor and get started on AndroGel?

Makers of testosterone products, like Abbvie, previously known as Abbott Labs, the largest supplier of testosterone, want to sell their drug as much as a Mexican drug lord wishes to market his drugs, and in my opinion, with the same regard for your safety and health. These slick Pharma Cartels have recruited some of the best drug pushers available: men and women who can legally give their patients a piece of paper thus allowing their naïve customer to purchase it legally at any pharmacy in the United States. They’ve got the ultimate drug distribution ring!

To increase sales big Pharma has also hired the best writers and ad men, from the same mold as those who sold Americans on Tobacco with ads like “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette,” to give us the image that testosterone will restore your strength and your youth with no risk. Are you a 50 year-old divorced man who is having trouble hooking up with an attractive and younger partner? Could it be that a bit of testosterone may help you look and feel better and be a real performance enhancer in bed? And according to a recent article in Journal of American Medical Association, this campaign to get every man out there on testosterone is working, with a tripling in the use of testosterone replacement in the past ten years.

As I have suggested, without the doctors — doctors who previously were practicing anything from ER medicine to Cardiology — the drug company execs would have as much trouble pushing their testosterone as the drug czars would without their local distribution networks. And it seems that many doctors are just handing testosterone shots and gels out without really practicing medicine. In a recent article, also published in the June edition of JAMA, over 25% of men who received testosterone never had their blood levels checked. And of those who had their levels checked it appears that most did not have their levels checked the appropriate number of times (total testosterone levels can decrease with weight gain or stress, even fluctuate depending on the time of day), or with an appropriate test that checks both total and free testosterone. Sadly, it appears that there are likely thousands of doctors performing a task for cash and not in order to “heal thy patient.”

It is important to note that I am discussing real hormone testosterone replacement and not some over-the-counter supplement that is being sold by some snake oil salesman on TV. Those people are just ripping you off, although it may be entirely true that using their magic pill, since it likely has no medicinal value, is ultimately safer than taking the real thing.

Our healthcare system remains controlled and manipulated by big money and big business as it was in the 1990s when a similar campaign made it seem that every postmenopausal woman should be taking estrogen replacement. After industry convinced doctors and patients that estrogen therapy was good for postmenopausal women, and after many billions in profit, it turned out that replacement therapy may have made women look and feel better, but it also killed many as well. Sadly, it seems to me that Pharma is now telling us, what’s good for the gander is good for the goose.

It is my impression that big Pharma has not only lied to millions of men, who are foolishly taking a toxic drug to look and feel better, but they have conspired to slow the wheels of academia and have failed to help fund studies that may show the dangers of hormone replacement.

Small studies, including the TOMS trial, have strongly suggested that this type of hormone replacement could kill elderly men while other studies, mostly sponsored by Pharma, have shown equivocal outcomes. A large independently-funded study of the kind we often see with other medications is not in the works.

And so Pharma seems to have manipulated the outcomes by insuring relatively short durations for their studies, with many of those studies only following patients for six months. The problem here is that the beneficial effects of testosterone — increased lean muscle mass, improved energy, and better performance in the sack — may take only a month or so but the complex pathology or increased plaque in your heart or brain and a subsequent MI or death could take years! Hey, I bet if we took forty and fifty-year-old men and gave them some tobacco to smoke for six months that the study would find that men who smoked felt more relaxed and even lost weight. Take that study out to 10 years or so and it would then be obvious that smoking tobacco kills people.

A study of Thalidomide for pregnant women having morning sickness would have favorable results if it only followed those women into their third trimester. I think these sneaky bastards are fully aware of this and are slowly funding studies that follow patients out for a very short time in an effort to make billions before someone realizes, as we did with tobacco, or thalidomide, or estrogen replacement, that this therapy has harmed millions.

For those fans of Breaking Bad, Walter White MD, might just say they are businessmen supplying a product that people want.


About the Author: Dr. Evan S. Levine is a cardiologist in New York and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center – Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is also the author of the book “What Your Doctor Won’t (or can’t) Tell You”. He lives in Connecticut with his wife and children.



3 Responses to Pushing Drugs: Testosterone and Big Pharma

  1. jamese on September 14, 2013 at 1:59 am

    Is anyone keeping count of the number of innocent children who have been harmed by this easy, reckless, promotion of testosterone use? If you look online, there are young men misusing these products to build muscle, or so they believe. It’s as if the collateral damage from these products is somehow irrelevant. Who paid off your FDA?

    • heartdude on September 17, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Crazy isn’ t it? Imagine if we gave some topical poison for a skin condition that was even life threatening. FDA would not let patient out of hospital for days perhaps. For all of us so concerned about the small chance of water contamination, or hormones in food, or pesticides how about your kid’s uncle or mom’s friend who has this toxin all over his hands.

  2. SteveH on August 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    Those ads are everywhere on TV. I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw someone on the corner near our local high school in a trench coat pushing testosterone to students. Really, it’s out of control. What do the off-label use stats look like for this? I’ll bet there mind blowing.

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