Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD, director of PharmedOut, a Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) project whose mission includes educating healthcare professionals about pharmaceutical marketing practices, said it is ironic that some people are extolling the benefits of anti-aging therapies whose long-term ramifications are unclear, even as she questions how the business of anti-aging has gone from “quack therapies” to mainstream medicine in a rather short time.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 33 – No 05 – May 2014
“It used to be that anti-aging therapies were in the complementary and alternative medicine sphere,” she said. “It’s crossed over. It’s becoming more acceptable in conventional medicine to ‘treat aging.’ It’s a bad precedent. Hormones have risks.”
“The only alternative to aging is death. Aging is a normal part of life and that’s what we should be counseling patients about.”
—Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD
Dr. Fugh-Berman uses the condition of hypogonadism—“low testosterone,” or “low t,” for short—as a prime example. Self-administered tests for the condition often ask vague metrics, such as questions about whether a man is more tired after dinner or gaining weight as he get older. Being tired after dinner and gaining weight with age are not necessarily signs of problems, Dr. Fugh-Berman said.
Yet clinics, boutique spas, and other venues have seen the use of testosterone grow as patients clamor for treatment for “low t” and physicians can make money by treating the condition, she said.
“The establishment of ‘low-T syndrome’ did not come from an upswelling of support from unconflicted physicians,” Dr. Fugh-Berman said. “This is marketing … we should not be giving patients potent pharmacological therapies in an effort to combat aging. The only alternative to aging is death. Aging is a normal part of life and that’s what we should be counseling patients about.”
Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.