The Benefits of Testosterone for Older Men

Testosterone therapy may improve sexual function, physical ability and mood in older men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Testosterone therapy has been a controversial subject for some time in the scientific community, likely because of the mixed research results tied to the practice. But that may be about to change.

A new study from the University of Pittsburgh (UP) has shown for the first time that testosterone therapy can help older men in several areas. Researchers found that testosterone gel helped improve men's walking ability. It also seemed to improve their sexual function and mood.

Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone. It affects sexual performance, mood, energy and other essential body functions. Levels of this hormone gradually decline as men age.

In 2003, the US Institute of Medicine issued a recommendation statement about testosterone therapy in men age 65 and older. The agency said that there was insufficient evidence to recommend testosterone therapy in this group.

This statement sparked seven different trials, collectively called the TTrials, on the effects of testosterone therapy in men age 65 and older.

Jane A. Cauley, DPh, chair of the TTrials recruitment committee at UP, said in a press release, "Previous testosterone trials in older men yielded [uncertain] and inconsistent results. We showed that testosterone improved men's impression that their sexual function and walking ability had improved, suggesting that these effects are clinically important."

Dr. Cauley is a professor of epidemiology at UP and the lead researcher of the trials.

The TTrial in question, called the Pittsburgh trial, compared testosterone gel (brand name Androgel) to a placebo gel. This study included three trials. Other TTrials are currently evaluating heart health, bone health, cognitive function and the risks of testosterone therapy in older men.

The Pittsburgh trial included 790 men altogether, 78 of whom lived in the area. These men were divided into two groups. One used testosterone gel. The other used a placebo gel.

The men used the gels for one year and were evaluated at three, six, nine and 12 months. Their symptoms were assessed by survey.

Dr. Cauley and team found that testosterone therapy improved sexual function and mood in these men. The men also saw improvements in the distance they could walk in six minutes, but only when all men in the TTrials were evaluated. The men in the physical function trial alone did not see significant improvements in walking ability. Testosterone therapy also did not affect energy levels in these men.

Side effects of treatment were similar in both groups.

The Pittsburgh TTrial was published Feb. 17 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The National Institute on Aging, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke, and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded this research. AbbVie, the pharmaceutical company that makes Androgel, supplied the gel free of charge.

Several study authors reported receiving consulting fees or grants from AbbVie or other pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Review Date: 
February 17, 2016
Last Updated:
February 17, 2016