Life Fuel: Could Compound Testosterone Therapy Help Patients Live Longer?
As a compounding pharmacist, you will sometimes have patients come to you with non-FDA approved treatment solutions they have read about on the Internet or heard about from friends. One of the most-discussed pharmacological matters in recent years is the use of testosterone therapy in healthy individuals to promote anti-aging properties.
We all want to live longer, better, fuller lives. Pharmacology isn’t just about healing and treatment and pain relief—we also want our patients to experience the highest level of well-being possible, and in the future this may mean that pharmacists see their role shift to include more compounding that proactively assists with preventative care and overall health and wellness.
Right now, using testosterone and other hormonal therapy in healthy individuals is not a widely practiced phenomenon, and pharmacists who may explore this with patients need to ensure that everyone involved is educated on testosterone therapy before beginning the treatment.1
What Benefits Does Testosterone Therapy Potentially Offer for Healthy Individuals?
The benefits of taking testosterone therapy as a healthy individual is mostly qualitative today. In several studies, men with healthy testosterone levels who underwent testosterone therapy reported mixed results. Some stated that they gained muscle mass without gaining strength, while others reported feeling younger and more vigorous as the treatment progressed.2
Testosterone is commonly used as a treatment for older men suffering from hypogonadism and evidence in many studies show that older men commonly have a partial androgen deficiency, or low testosterone levels. This can correlate with low muscle strength and poor cognitive performance, but studies have yet to conclusively show that testosterone replacement effectively reverses the effects of low androgen levels, including mixed results on depression or cognitive function.
Generally speaking, a healthy person who wishes to take testosterone therapy will expect benefits such as:
- increased strength
- increased muscle mass
- heightened blood flow, which can lead to increased energy levels and sexual function3
Some physicians may prescribe testosterone therapy for people who have otherwise healthy “T” levels to promote improvements in one of these areas for other health reasons. Pharmacists who choose to can provide testosterone therapy in several forms, including a topical gel applied to the abdomen, shoulders and upper arms on a daily basis; a skin patch; an upper gum patch; injections (typically every two weeks or so); or implants placed under the skin for up to six months.
Educating the Patient: Asking the Right Questions When Testosterone Therapy Comes Up
If testosterone therapy comes up in a discussion with a patient, it’s always the pharmacist’s responsibility to make sure they are fully educated on the matter. Ask the right questions to get to the underlying motives. Why does a healthy patient wish to undergo this regimen? Are there potential psychological issues at play? Have they spoken to their doctor about this?
Especially if a patient comes in reporting that they have low testosterone levels, make sure they have seen a physician to get their actual testosterone levels measured. Low testosterone levels can be one reason that an older man might experience symptoms such as fatigue, depression, decreased sexual function and increased weight gain. It’s important to note, however, that “low T” might not be the cause of these symptoms, many of which can be attributed to other common illnesses or just overall aging.
Although the more severe reactions are relatively rare, pharmacists should also educate patients on the potential side effects of boosting already healthy hormone levels in their bodies, including:
- enlarged prostate
- development of sleep disorders
- acne or oily skin
- enlarged breasts
- testicle shrinkage and limited sperm production4
Will We Start to See Wider Use of Testosterone Therapy Soon?
It’s hard to say that widespread use of testosterone replacement therapy for healthy people will soon see its day. With the FDA showing no signs of approving any kind of testosterone therapy for healthy individuals any time soon, and with few clinical trials scheduled or more than positive anecdotal reports, it would be difficult to recommend that compounding pharmacists jump on board with testosterone therapy for general wellness purposes at this time.
Pharmacists should remember, however, all of the potential benefits of other kinds of hormone replacement therapy for their clients and the benefits of testosterone therapy for specific conditions. For instance, compounding pharmacists are an integral part in providing testosterone therapy for prostate cancer treatments and Type II diabetes-related complications. As researchers continue to look at more ways to use testosterone to potentially improve our lives, pharmacists can help their patients take advantage of the latest research and developments in testosterone therapy by staying informed and working closely with other physicians and specialists on their patients’ health care teams.5
Pharmaceutica North America is a leading provider of high-quality compounding kits and active pharmaceutical ingredients for compounding pharmacies and other health care organizations. Contact us to learn more about our products.
- “Is testosterone therapy safe? Take a breath before you take the plunge,” Feb. 1, 2014, http://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/is-testosterone-therapy-safe-take-a-breath-before-you-take-the-plunge ↩
- “Testosterone replacement therapy for older men,” December 2007, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2686341/ ↩
- “Testosterone therapy for men,” June 27, 2013, https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/007581.htm ↩
- “Testosterone therapy: Potential benefits and risks as you age,” April 1, 2015, http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/sexual-health/in-depth/testosterone-therapy/art-20045728?pg=1 ↩
- “Testosterone Replacement in Hypogonadal Men with Type 2 Diabetes and/or Metabolic Syndrome (the TIMES2 Study),” March 8, 2011, http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/4/828.full ↩