Lowdown on treatment for “Low T”

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- More energy and a better love life, what man wouldn't want that?

Those are typical claims consumers often hear or see from clinics promoting low testosterone therapy.

The therapy isn't new.

However, direct advertising to consumers has increased awareness about the option.

So, treatment for low testosterone has become big business.

Robert Booth runs Atlas Men's Health in Midtown Memphis.

"They're looking for an explanation of why am I suddenly so tired?" said Booth about what usually drives men through his door.

As men age, their bodies don't make as much testosterone, which can lead to hypogonadism or "Low T".

Testosterone Therapy: Benefits and Risks (Source: Mayo Clinic)

Treatment options range from gels and creams to the now extremely, popular weekly injections.

These days, there's no shortage of clinics or patients.

Holice Meeks started getting treatment for low testosterone about five years ago and says it practically changed his life.

"I worked night shift, I did the whole, I was up all night even on my days off," he told WREG.

Meeks said after going on therapy for low testosterone, "I felt like a 16-year-old kid again."

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Despite success for some and newer research boasting the benefits of treatment for Low T, even the FDA has raised concerns about safety, long term risks and over prescribing.

It now requires manufacturers to put a warning label on products.

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Dr. John Adams is a urologist with the Conrad Pearson Clinic in  Germantown.

He says he often sees patients who've gotten too much testosterone, or unnecessary shots all together.

"We find that their testosterone level at the point in time which they've been advised to have an additional injection is still above normal."

That, according to Dr. Adams, can be dangerous.

According to Dr. Adams, some of the risks of getting too much testosterone include infertility, heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Adams also says symptoms for low testosterone can often be signs of bigger health problems.

"It's very important that these patients are followed on a regular basis and not just given testosterone," said Dr. Adams.

The On Your Side Investigators uncovered complaints and lawsuits accusing local clinics of doing just that, potentially prescribing products for patients who don't need it.

"There's no question that there's places out there that are what we refer to as shot jockeys," Booth said.

Memphis based Ageless Men's Health agreed to pay the federal government $1.6 million earlier this year to settle allegations it billed for unnecessary procedures.

The complaint accused Ageless of "spending as few as five minutes" and "not taking diagnostic readings" during follow ups.

It also stated the company's intent was to "turn over treatment rooms as quickly as possible."

Ageless Group Director Jason McOlgan says that's not true.

"We do blood testing on patients that come in, we also ask them questions as to why they came in, on top of that, nobody comes in here that's not seeking testosterone treatment."

Treatment that can be very expensive.

Some stand alone clinics don't accept insurance.

In other cases, patients are required to file on their own.

Typically, patients start with an initial consultation, which WREG found can range from $0 to more than $200, followed by weekly injections that can cost up to $60.

"It was a sales pitch from the beginning," said one man who didn't want WREG to show his face.

He went to Memphis Men's Clinic for help.

The clinic's website shows it treats low testosterone and other problems, but mainly focuses on erectile dysfunction.

We found his complaint at the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, where like others, he was furious after paying more than $2,000 for medicine, he says he never got a clear understanding of, and in fact, never even opened.

He also claims, the clinic ignored his real symptoms.

"What causes it, what can be done about it, how do you treat it, etc, that didn't happen," he said.

84-year-old Henry Sills wrote to WREG about his problems with Memphis Men's Clinic.

"I was rushed into the deal."

A prostate cancer survivor, Sills paid more than $3500 for shots to treat his ED.

However, he told WREG he had problems after testing a sample at home.

"I tried the first one and I bled all over my underwear," explained Sills.

Sills says he told the clinic he wasn't interested and asked for his money back.

He got a few hundred bucks, but nothing else.

In fact, at the time of our interview, although he didn't want it, Sills hadn't even received the package of shots he paid for.

He thought it was ironic considering the company's ad.

"Absolutely nothing to lose, but everything to gain, I lost $3200 so far, that's a lot to lose!"

Memphis Men's Clinic refused repeated requests for an on camera interview, citing patient privacy.

The bottom line for potential patients, is that if you need help for low testosterone, do your homework first.

Booth says that means getting referrals and not just relying on ads.

"If you were a patient looking for a primary care provider, you would go to some resource to research a doctor before you picked one randomly," he said.

So, the search for a person and place to treat Low T should be taken just as serious.

Dr. Adams added that not treating low testosterone can be harmful as well.

"All the treatment options need to be put into the context of the individual patient," he told WREG.

Check your doctor's background here.

File a complaint with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs

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