In the case of testosterone, Abbott Laboratories says Androgel and other drugs like it are an important treatment option for men with low levels of the hormone. But the company acknowledges that more study is needed.
"Abbott believes that the long-term effects of testosterone replacement therapy should be studied, which is why we continually fund and support additional clinical trials, such as the National Institute of Aging's testosterone trial," the company says.
Doctors who prescribe testosterone say more men should be talking to their doctors about the hormone. "If an older man feels excessively tired or his erectile dysfunction has worsened he should be asking 'Is there something wrong with my testosterone?'" says Mezitis of Lenox Hill Hospital. "The awareness should be much broader than it is at this point."
Even critics of the testosterone craze acknowledge that the interest in anti-aging products may be inevitable as life expectancy increases. But they say doctors can do more to help seniors by focusing on lifestyle adjustments that keep them connected to their friends and family, rather than prescribing drugs.
"We really 'medicalize' seniors so much that they think the secret always has to be scientific," says Dr. Nortin Hadler of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has written four books on excessive medical care. "We need another perspective to understand the secrets to healthy aging, which by and large are not pills."
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