Testosterone Therapy Not Linked to Heart Attack

Testosterone use in men with high risk for heart problems actually lowered heart attack risk

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) As men age, their bodies may start to produce less testosterone. In some cases, men may need to use testosterone therapy to prevent certain health problems. However, some research suggests that testosterone therapy could raise the risk for heart attack.

That may not be the case, according to a new study.

This new research found no link between the use of testosterone therapy and increased heart attack risk.

In fact, the researchers found that for men with a high risk of heart attack, testosterone therapy slightly lowered heart attack risk.

"Ask your pharmacist about the possible risks of testosterone therapy."

Jacques Baillargeon, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology in the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Texas, led this research.

In response to conflicting research, the UTMB team conducted a large scale study of whether the use of testosterone therapy increases risk of heart attack in men.

Testosterone is a hormone essential for producing sperm, maintaining sex drive, making red blood cells and keeping bones and muscles strong, among other things.

Testosterone therapy can help combat decreased testosterone production as men age by supplying a man-made version of testosterone through a patch, gel, injection or implant.

Dr. Baillargeon and his colleagues used a 5 percent sample of Medicare insurance claims data to examine medical records of 6,355 patients treated with at least one injection of testosterone between January 1, 1997 and December 31, 2005.

Medicare is the US federal government's insurance program for seniors.

The researchers matched that group with 19,065 Medicare recipients who did not use testosterone, then followed the group until they lost coverage, got a different type of insurance, had a heart attack or died.

While noting that testosterone users were more likely to die from another disease, the UTMB researchers found no association between testosterone therapy and an increased risk of heart attack.

Heart attack occurs when there’s a blockage of blood flow to the heart. It's the leading killer of both men and women in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

"Our investigation was motivated by a growing concern, in the US and internationally, that testosterone therapy increases men's risk for cardiovascular disease, specifically heart attack and stroke," Dr. Baillargeon said in a prepared statement.

"This concern has increased in the last few years based on the results of a clinical trial and two observational studies," he said. "It is important to note, however, that there is a large body of evidence that is consistent with our finding of no increased risk of heart attack associated with testosterone use."

Dr. Baillargeon said that “large-scale, randomized clinical trials” would lend more definitive evidence.

This study was published online July 2 in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy.

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest related to this work.

Review Date: 
July 2, 2014
Last Updated:
July 5, 2014