Men flock to testosterone meds from Abbott, Lilly

Are testosterone drugs another hormone-replacement ordeal in the making? Some doctors think so, Bloomberg reports. The testosterone products, including AndroGel from Abbott Laboratories ($ABT) and Axiron from Eli Lilly ($LLY), are selling like ice cream on a hot day, and they're expected to keep growing apace. But testosterone therapy has its risks, especially in men whose hormone levels aren't pathologically low.

Low testosterone is a problem for millions of men, studies have shown, and sub-normal levels can lead to effects similar to those in women who turn to hormone-replacement therapy: loss of libido, decreased bone and muscle mass, and depression, the Cleveland Clinic tells Bloomberg. But in men without clinically low testosterone, the drugs can fuel prostate tumors and cause other health problems, including liver damage and blood clots, Cleveland Clinic's Edmund Sabanegh said.

Meanwhile, sales of testosterone products are expected to triple by 2017, to around $5 billion. So the worry is that in this rush of new patients using testosterone replacements, men without a medical need are taking the drugs for quality-of-life reasons. As Sabanegh told the news service, "I think it is a highly addictive drug, and I think we need to be very careful about treating patients appropriately."

Both Abbott and Lilly stress that they only market their testosterone drugs for men without out-of-range hormone levels. Both companies say their products are effective and safe when used properly, noting that users should be monitored for prostate cancer. Abbott is running a disease-awareness campaign, while Lilly has advertised Axiron online and in print.

- read the Bloomberg story