Testosterone Lawsuits On The Rise Due To Strokes And Blood Clotting Risks
Many men across the U.S. have been prescribed testosterone as a way of treating hypogonadism, also called low testosterone or “low-T.” Common symptoms of the hormone deficiency include fatigue, decreased libido, and infertility, leading many men to opt for androgen replacement therapy to correct these effects. However, testosterone therapy has recently been discovered to cause serious side effects, including heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and blood clotting anomalies that can lead to strokes.
Why Does Testosterone Therapy Cause Heart Problems in Patients?
Doctors prescribe testosterone to patients whose blood levels show a lower than average amount of the hormone. Some drugmakers who produce testosterone supplements have made marketing claims as to the hormone’s beneficial effects, including renewed vitality, reversing erectile dysfunction, increased energy levels and building strength and endurance.
In recent years, several studies have identified the side effects and risks of prescription testosterone—many of which are far more deadly that the conditions it treats. Patients on testosterone may be at increased risk of the following health conditions:
- Heart problems. A study conducted by Boston University School of Medicine in 2010 found that men taking testosterone supplements were five times as likely to suffer from severe heart problems, including congestive heart failure—a risk that increased with the age of the patient.
- Heart attacks. In 2014, a study linked testosterone use with increased heart attack risk in men of varying ages and health levels. In the study, men under 65 who had a history of heart disease doubled their risk of heart attacks within the first 90 days of beginning hormone therapy, a risk much higher than for men 65 or older with no pre-existing heart disease.
- Stroke. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a safety warning in 2015 advising patients of the adverse health risks of taking testosterone, including strokes, heart attacks, and even death.
- Blood clots. One of the known side effects of testosterone therapy is polycythemia, a thickening of the blood. Testosterone causes an increase in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells, causing slower circulation, high blood pressure, and the development of blood clots.
- Sleep apnea. Patients undergoing testosterone therapy have been known to develop sleep apnea, a disorder that causes a person to stop breathing several times an hour while they are asleep. Sleep apnea sufferers typically endure chronic fatigue as they are denied proper REM sleep, but people taking testosterone were also more likely to suffer decreased oxygen levels and cardiac arrhythmias during sleep.
Can Drugmakers Be Held Liable for Testosterone Side Effects?
Pharmaceutical companies can be held accountable for the side effects of their products, especially if they are guilty of negligence. For example, companies are held to strict standards dictating how they can market their products. Some lawsuits allege that many drug manufacturers (including Abbott, AbbVie, Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Pfizer, and Pharmacia & Upjohn) may have marketed their products to populations who would not benefit, including elderly men and men with no medical history of low testosterone. Other suits claim that drugmakers made false or misleading statements about the benefits of testosterone in their marketing materials in order to increase profits.
There are still over a thousand testosterone lawsuits pending in federal court, all of which have been filed by men claiming that the hormone therapy caused adverse cardiovascular effects. One case, filed against Solvay Pharmaceuticals, claims that the company used improper sales practices in the marketing of its testosterone replacement drug AndroGel. Documents in the case allege that Solvay bribed doctors to screen patients seeking Viagra for low testosterone. Doctors could then recommend AndroGel as a solution, even though the product was never approved as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.