Despite the aging of the US population and increasing sales of prescription testosterone, treatment patterns for androgen deficiency (AD) are poorly understood. We describe patterns and correlates of testosterone treatment in community-dwelling men.
The Boston Area Community Health Survey is an observational study of a population-based random sample of racially and ethnically diverse men representative of Boston, Massachusetts. Data collected by in-person interview from April 2002 to June 2005 included health status, socioeconomic status, access to medical care, and use of prescription medications. A venous blood sample was collected. The operational definition of untreated AD was serum total testosterone level less than 300 ng/dL (to convert to nanomoles per liter, multiply by 0.0347) and free testosterone level less than 5 ng/dL, and the presence of at least 1 specific symptom (low libido, erectile dysfunction, or osteoporosis) or 2 or more less-specific symptoms (sleep disturbance, depressed mood, lethargy, or diminished physical performance) and not using prescription testosterone. Any man who was using testosterone was considered to have treated AD.
Data were available for 1486 Boston Area Community Health Survey participants (mean age, 46.4 years; age range, 30-79 years). A total of 5.5% (95% confidence interval, 3.5-8.5) men met the criteria for having untreated, symptomatic AD, and 0.8% (95% confidence interval, 0.4-1.4) met the criteria for having treated AD. Considering all cases, the proportion treated was 12.2%. Men with untreated AD seemed to have adequate access to care.
Under our assumptions, a large majority (87.8%) of 97 men in our groups with AD were not receiving treatment despite adequate access to care. The reasons for this are unknown but could be due to unrecognized AD or unwillingness to prescribe testosterone therapy.