Turmoil Over Testosterone Study Leaves Doctors, Patients Dangling

Controversial study by the Journal of the American Medical Association raises more questions than it answers.

The news was enough to make a testosterone induced manly man shrivel.

It was late last year that JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, published the results of research that claimed that men who use testosterone supplementation have a 29 percent greater chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke within three years of use.

Until the study, testosterone was the hottest medical product on the market. You couldn’t listen to talk radio or watch a sporting event without being asked if you had “low-T” during the commercial break. That would explain why you were sitting on your couch instead of playing basketball, having sex and generally enjoying your life. The announcer then promised that a gel, a pill, or an injection would transform you from a disinterested lump of flesh into a man again.

Now those ads have been replaced new ones from law firms looking to sign up clients for class action lawsuits. This is a shocker to doctors like Ray Ishman, who believe in testosterone therapy. Ishman left a successful practice in New Jersey to become CEO of Philadelphia Cenegenics, an anti-aging company that caters to executives and prescribes testosterone injections as part of its routine.

“I was beyond shocked,” Ishman told me. “The vast majority of research to this point has been positive showing that testosterone therapy helps in preventing coronary disease, Alzheimer’s and other serious health problems.”

Ishman admits that he has lost clients because their primary physicians warned them about testosterone after reading JAMA. He is now hoping to get them back after a storm of charges that the research was flawed.

For instance, the researchers boasted that they studied over 8,000 male patients at VA hospitals across the country and later had to admit that 10% of the patients were women. They also later admitted that many of the participants had existing heart problems. They are just the two most blatant of a long list of problems with the study.

JAMA has published two corrections to the original research, but 25 medical societies and over 150 physicians and scientists, many leaders in the field of urology, endocrinology and andrology, are asking for a retraction. So far, JAMA has refused.

In a sign that the FDA may not fully believe in the study, it has refused to ban or even restrict testosterone use. In a statement released in January, the FDA said, “At this time, FDA has not concluded that FDA-approved testosterone treatment increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, or death. Patients should not stop taking prescribed testosterone products without first discussing any questions or concerns with their health care professionals.” However, the FDA will do its own research and make its findings known.

Until that time, Dr. Ishman has tried to reassure his patients that he is administering testosterone the right way, within prescribed limits and under constant supervision. “We do blood work several times a year to check levels and constantly re-evaluate,” said the doctor.

That is something that didn’t happen with participants in the JAMA study, another reason it was criticized.

In full disclosure, I was once a patient of Dr. Ishman. I got involved with his program when he advertised on a radio station where I worked. I was impressed by the constant medical attention and never felt anything but great. But, alas, the radio station sold and so I am not currently a patient. Still, my time with the program leaves me wondering and I will anxiously await the FDA follow-up research and would suggest following their advice in the meantime.

Follow @LarryMendte on Twitter.