Testosterone therapy: Prescribing and monitoring patterns of practice in British Columbia
Keywords:Testosterone therapy, Hypogonadism, serum testosterone levels
Introduction: Guidelines recommend that testosterone therapy (TTh) be restricted to men with a biochemical diagnosis of hypogonadism, and that therapeutic responses be titrated within the normal range.
Methods: Using four provincial longitudinal databases in British Columbia, we identified men prescribed TTh from 1997–2013. We characterized the prescribing and monitoring practices of TTh in the context of serum testosterone levels drawn prior to and following initiation of TTh in a population-based setting.
Results: In our analysis of 37 741 men who received at least one TTh prescription, 48% received injectable testosterone and the vast majority were treated by general practitioners. The number of prescriptions for men increased annually, particularly after 2008; 40% discontinued their treatment after their first or second prescription, while 27% received more than 10 repeats. The absolute percentage of pre- and post-serum testosterone levels ordered increased by 16% and 31% during the study period, respectively. However, after initiating TTh, only 36% of all the men had a followup serum testosterone level drawn. Of those with low serum testosterone levels prior to TTh, 49% remained biochemically hypogonadal following TTh, suggesting non-compliance or inadequate dosing.
Conclusions: Many men prescribed TTh did not continue beyond a short trial. While the practice of checking pre-and post-TTh testosterone levels improved over the study period, it is concerning that only one-third had a followup serum testosterone level and half remained biochemically low. Further education is required around TTh prescribing, dose titration, and monitoring to ensure both effective and safe prescribing practice.
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