FDA: Testosterone and Other Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS): Risks Assoc. With Abuse and Dependence

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AUDIENCE: Patient, Endocrinology, Internal Medicine

ISSUE: FDA approved class-wide labeling changes for all prescription testosterone products, adding a new Warning and updating the Abuse and Dependence section to include new safety information from published literature and case reports regarding the risks associated with abuse and dependence of testosterone and other AAS. 

The Anabolic Steroids Control Act of 1990 placed AAS, including testosterone, in Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act. Testosterone and other AAS are abused by adults and adolescents, including athletes and body builders. Abuse of testosterone, usually at doses higher than those typically prescribed and usually in conjunction with other AAS, is associated with serious safety risks affecting the heart, brain, liver, mental health, and endocrine system. Reported serious adverse outcomes include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, depression, hostility, aggression, liver toxicity, and male infertility. Individuals abusing high doses of testosterone have also reported withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, decreased libido, and insomnia. 

The new Warning will alert prescribers to the abuse potential of testosterone and the serious adverse outcomes, especially those related to heart and mental health that have been reported in association with testosterone/AAS abuse. In addition to the new Warning, all testosterone labeling has been revised to include information in the Abuse and Dependence section about adverse outcomes reported in association with abuse and dependence of testosterone/AAS, and information in the Warning and Precautions section advising prescribers of the importance of measuring serum testosterone concentration if abuse is suspected.     
 
BACKGROUND: Prescription testosterone products are FDA-approved as hormone replacement therapy for men who have low testosterone due to certain medical conditions. Examples of these conditions include failure of the testicles to produce testosterone because of genetic problems, or damage to the testicles from chemotherapy or infection.

RECOMMENDATION: Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

  • Complete and submit the report Online: www.fda.gov/MedWatch/report
  • Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178
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