A: If a health insurance company is providing coverage for a medication, including testosterone replacement therapy, they determine the final cost of the product. Costs will vary from one health insurance plan to another. To determine the costs of the testosterone replacement options, the health insurance plan should be contacted. There are various options for testosterone replacement therapy including gels, injections, patches, and tablets that dissolve under the lip. All of the formulations can be effective and each has advantages and disadvantages. The most appropriate testosterone replacement therapy depends on a variety of factors, including cost, patient preference, and tolerability. Testosterone replacement gels, such as AndroGel and Testim, are very effective and easy to administer. AndroGel and Testim can be easily applied to the skin once daily. However, the gels can be irritating to the skin and AndroGel and Testim are typically quite expensive. Testosterone replacement injections, such as Depo-Testosterone (testosterone cypionate) and Delatestryl (testosterone enanthate), are usually inexpensive. The injections are given only once every one to two weeks. The major disadvantage with injectable testosterone is that testosterone levels may be difficult to control. Levels may be too high after an injection and too low before the following injection. A testosterone replacement patch, such as Androderm, is applied every night and left on for 24 hours. Androderm can be applied to the arm, back or stomach, in an area without too much hair. Androderm can cause irritation of the skin. A testosterone tablet, Striant, is placed under the upper lip against the gums and replaced every 12 hours. Striant molds to the upper gum so that eating and drinking can occur normally. The testosterone tablet can irritate the gums and cause a bitter taste and toothache. People with low testosterone should work with their doctor or healthcare provider to find a safe, effective, and affordable testosterone replacement option for them. For more specific information, consult with your doctor or pharmacist for guidance based on your health status and current medications, particularly before taking any action. Derek Dore, PharmD
An international consensus document was recently published and provides guidance on the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of late-onset hypogonadism (LOH) in men. The diagnosis of LOH requires biochemical and clinical components. Controversy in defining the clinical syndrome continues due to the high prevalence of hypogonadal symptoms in the aging male population and the non-specific nature of these symptoms. Further controversy surrounds setting a lower limit of normal testosterone, the limitations of the commonly available total testosterone result in assessing some patients and the unavailability of reliable measures of bioavailable or free testosterone for general clinical use. As with any clinical intervention testosterone treatment should be judged on a balance of risk versus benefit. The traditional benefits of testosterone on sexual function, mood, strength and quality of life remain the primary goals of treatment but possible beneficial effects on other parameters such as bone density, obesity, insulin resistance and angina are emerging and will be reviewed. Potential concerns regarding the effects of testosterone on prostate disease, aggression and polycythaemia will also be addressed. The options available for treatment have increased in recent years with the availability of a number of testosterone preparations which can reliably produce physiological serum concentrations.