A man in Florida started using Testim and AndroGel in 2005 for diminishing testosterone levels, or Low T. Over the next two years, Michael Seaburn suffered two heart attacks and has since filed suit against the gels manufacturers. The testosterone therapy lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm detail this lawsuit and others like it we are currently handling.
Dubious Marketing for a Contrived Condition
You have undoubtedly seen commercials for men with Low T, a made-up condition describing the decline in testosterone all men experience with age. These commercials describe the natural effects of aging in men – changes in sexual function, increased body fat, reduced muscle strength, less energy, and sleep disturbances and bill them as symptoms of Low T. Companies market their testosterone gels and products like AndroGel and Testim as cures to Low T, as the ultimate anti-aging formula.
What these companies fail to mention in these ads is that lower testosterone levels is a natural part of aging, not a medical condition, and that there are very real, life-threatening side effects to these products. AbbVie, the manufacturer of AndroGel, spent $80 million in ads for the gel in 2012. The following year, AndroGel reaped $1.4 billion in sales. In 2014, testosterone products reached $2.1 billion in sales.
Clearly, millions of men bought the marketing gimmick, asking their doctors for prescriptions for testosterone products. Michael Seaburn was one of these men. As stated, he started using Testim and AndroGel topical testosterone treatments. Within two years after starting these treatments, Seaburn had two heart attacks, suffering immense pain and anguish, loss of life’s pleasures, and significant economic losses.
Seaburn, like millions of other men, claims he was not told testosterone treatments had strong links to heart complications, strokes and death. He claims companies like AbbVie purposefully encouraged men to view the normal signs of aging as a condition, that could be treated with products like AndroGel.
Concealing the True Risks of T-Therapy
AndroGel was approved in 2000 to treat hypogonadism, which is a real disease involving the testicles or pituitary gland. Men with hypogonadism do not produce normal amounts of testosterone because of inadequate organ functioning. Men are either born with hypogonadism or develop it later in life from an infection or injury. This disease affects approximately 4 million American men. In 2014, 6.5 million prescriptions were written for testosterone products.
Despite being approved only for men suffering from diagnosed hypogonadism, AbbVie started marketing AndroGel to men with normal testosterone decline almost immediately. Despite knowing the treatments caused an increased risk of heart complications, death and stroke, these companies spent hundreds of millions of dollars convincing men they had a made-up condition and needed their product.
As a result, the FDA ordered testosterone drugmakers to start warning patients of the serious heart risks and clarify the uses for which these drugs are approved (hypogonadism). For far too many men, this update came too late. Thousands of men have filed injury lawsuits against AbbVie and other testosterone drugmakers.
Lawsuits allege drugmakers were negligent, reckless, and misrepresented testosterone drugs, causing serious injury and even death.
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Dirty Money in Medicine
Not only were these companies investing in mass marketing, they were also paying for continuing medical education courses (CME), which doctors are required to take. Pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers support CME programs regularly, to the chagrin of Congress and public advocates. A series of investigations between 2007 and 2009 revealed that these CME courses often acted as aggressive promotions of off-label drug uses (such as promoting testosterone therapy for men without diagnosed hypogonadism). Today, about one-quarter of CME income ($676 million) is from drug/device companies, who create course curriculum and hire faculty.
A review by Journal Sentinel andMedPage Today looked at 75 drug industry-funded testosterone therapy CME courses. Researchers found that a majority of the courses’ faculty were already on drug company payroll for speaking, consulting, and advising roles. These testosterone courses are another part of the effort to turn the natural aging process into a medical condition. Eli Lily alone spent $1.8 million to fund more than 25 testosterone-related CME courses between 2011 and 2014.
CME courses are supposed to be free of bias, but drug companies clearly use the platform as an opportunity to market products directly to doctors for off-label uses. The FDA has stridently stated testosterone products are not to be used in men with low testosterone due to aging, but doctors are prescribing them exactly for this use based largely on CME material. CME courses not only encourage off-label prescribing, but also downplay or completely conceal drug risks. More information on testosterone drugmaker influence in CME courses can be found here.
The consequences of drug and medical industry greed are real, and affect innocent patients in devastating ways. In 2009, 54-year-old Jeff Goehring went to his doctor complaining of tiredness. His doctor prescribed AndroGel based on tests that showed his testosterone levels were slightly declining (as all other 54-year-0lds are). Four day after starting AndroGel, he collapsed in his home from a stroke. More than six years later, Goehring still has trouble using his left arm and leg and has memory and vision issues. He can no longer work and is unable to pay his medical bills. He had to sell his company and many of his vintage cars, which he rehabbed himself. He says the stroke took the best part of his life away, and it is all due to a single prescription of AndroGel for a medical condition that does not exist.
More than 2,500 lawsuits have been filed against testosterone product companies and were recently consolidated in Chicago, our home base. If you or someone you love was seriously injured by a testosterone treatment, contact our firm as soon as possible. We provide free case reviews to concerned individuals nationwide.