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Are Low-T Drugs Putting Patients At High Risk?

NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - "Lost your appetite for romance? You might not just be getting older. You might have a treatable condition called low testosterone," the ad says. They are everywhere – on TV, radio and even on the side of Central Expressway in Dallas.

Ads for a legitimate condition called Low Testosterone or Low-T. But lately, doctors say more and more people are using it and some might not even need it.

Dr. Ujis Gruntmanis an associate professor of Endocrinology at the UT Southwestern Medical Center says he's seen an influx of patients at his own practice. "I think too many men are getting it and too many men who don't need it are getting it," he says.

He may be onto something – a recent study out of UT Galveston shows testosterone replacement therapy patients almost tripled from 2001 to 2011

Testosterone is a hormone in the human body and Low-T is condition when the testosterone levels fall dangerously low. The levels generally fall with age and research shows that it can be steadied with an active lifestyle. Testosterone helps maintain men's bone density, fat distribution, muscle strength and sex drive. Patients of Low–T can get the hormone using gels, injections and patches.

Many people have benefited from testosterone therapy like Robert Trasatti from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who says it helped increase his sex drive and focus.

But another Pennsylvania native, 51-year-old, Ed Downes says his life changed for the worse. "I thought it might be something good for me," he says. But two years ago, he suffered a stroke. He blames the testosterone gel he was using for his condition.

Dr. Gruntmanis says he likes the ads because it could bring in someone who really needs the drug," but not just every man who comes in and says I'm tired or want a bigger biceps and give me some testosterone." That, he cautions can be dangerous.

In fact a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association late last year found patients on testosterone have a 30 percent higher risk of a stroke, heart attack and even death.

Such studies raised flag with the Food and Drug Administration. Earlier this year, the FDA sent out a public alert about potential side effects. The agency told the CBS 11 I-Team that it is reviewing all available data on the cardiovascular safety of testosterone products.

"When FDA makes a statement like this it raises the bar. The questions many of us have to ask is why did this warning come out," says Dr. Gruntmanis.

Meanwhile the CBS 11 I-Team has learned that there are over 70 lawsuits filed against several drug makers marketing the hormone.

Dr. Gruntmanis says it is very important for patients to educate themselves on the side effects before getting any hormone replacement therapy.

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