Most men receiving testosterone supplements for a range of health conditions may not benefit from the therapy any more than they would a placebo, based on a review of studies suggesting the treatment is ineffective. Photo by Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 (UPI) -- For all the conditions testosterone supplements are prescribed for -- including cardiovascular function, sexual function, physical function, mood or cognitive function -- there is limited evidence the treatment actually improves health.
A review of clinical trial data suggests testosterone treatment has no beneficial effect on health conditions, researchers at Georgetown University report in a new study published in the journal PLOS One.
Testosterone treatment has been touted for a variety of conditions with studies appearing to support its clinical use. Studies in the last 12 months alone have suggested it could benefit veterans with heart problems and that it can reduce overall heart attack risk in heart disease patients.
At the same time, studies questioning testosterone therapy's use -- a 2013 study linked testosterone therapy to increased risk for heart attack and stroke -- have been published relatively consistently.
The Georgetown researchers conducted the review, they say, because of inconsistencies in clinical trial results and growing prescriptions for the treatment based on marketing and theoretical benefits. This, they say, is typified by older men who are seemingly healthy but wish to slow aging starting testosterone therapy, despite little to no data supporting its use.
"Testosterone products are marketed for non-specific symptoms associated with normal aging, but testosterone is not a reasonable treatment for aging," Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a pharmaceutical marketing researcher at Georgetown University Medical Center, said in a press release. "Testosterone has known risks and no clear benefits, and shouldn't be used by men with intact testicles."
For the study, the researchers analyzed data from 156 randomized controlled clinical trials conducted between 1950 and 2016 comparing testosterone treatment to placebo for cardiovascular health, sexual function, physical function, mood or cognitive function.
The researchers report they found no consistent benefits for any of the health conditions, though there was limited evidence of cardiovascular condition improvement considered to be insignificant. In most cases, the researchers report, a placebo was just as effective as testosterone on the health conditions examined.
Studies involving bodybuilding, contraceptive efficacy, treatment of women or children and treatment of any condition of men with less than two testicles were not included in the review, and the researchers say many conditions in adult men treated as low-testosterone issues may be caused by other health conditions.
"Testosterone has been marketed to improve a number of conditions but for the vast majority, our review of the data shows that not one of these claims has adequate clinical trial support," Fugh-Berman said.