Are you a man experiencing decreased sex drive? Are your erections less strong?  Is your body fat increasing and your muscle mass decreasing? Are you fatigued and lack energy? Are you sad and grumpy and experiencing less mental clarity? If so, a lot of marketing these days claims you may be suffering from “Low T”—low levels of the testosterone, the male hormone.
While a decrease in sex drive, muscle mass and energy are part of the aging process, for men and women, slick marketers in the last few years have told men the signs are actually from their waning testosterone and reversible if they supplement their testosterone deficiencies. Promising men the fountain of youth through replacing their testosterone deficiency is a $1.6 billion market  for AbbVie, Eli Lilly and other drug companies that are aggressively marketing treatments for Low T.
According to Boston University School of Medicine longevity expert Thomas Perls the “stay young” claims are not only erroneous, they can be downright harmful to men. Recently AlterNet caught up with Perls to learn more about the dangers of marketing testosterone for “deficiencies” when the drugs are likley neither safe or effective.
Martha Rosenberg: In the recent paper you cowrote with David J. Handelsman, chief of endocrinology at the ANZAC Research Institute at the University of Sydney you cite “disease-mongering.” Could you elaborate on the concept?
Thomas Perls: Disease-mongering is inventing new broader definitions of a disease or even the invention of a disease in conjunction with widespread marketing to increase sales of specific drugs and therapies. In combination with direct-to-consumer advertising, it can be a “medicalization” of common complaints that should have nothing to do with the drug being sold. Disease-mongering has boosted U.S. sales of testosterone from $324 million in 2002 to $2 billion in 2012.