Low T Center: The history and the controversy of low T treatment
No matter who you are, the hormone testosterone plays a key role in your body’s development and health. All healthy humans, male or female, produce testosterone naturally in their own bodies, and the hormone is vital for bone density, muscle production, and human growth in general. But testosterone is most widely known for its effects on men’s health and the male body, especially middle-aged men, and older men. The effects include issues related to sexuality, erectile dysfunction, energy levels, and male sexual organs.
This is why treatment for low testosterone has become increasingly popular in recent years, as more and more men seek to combat low libidos, fatigue, and weight gain using synthetic testosterone. But the center isn’t without controversy. Testosterone is not always a straightforward remedy for men, and there are many risks associated with the treatment, including the ones that get it at Low T Center.
What is the Low T center?
The Low T Center is a chain of testosterone clinic treatment facilities that are specifically designed for diagnosing and treating men with low testosterone levels using on-site synthetic hormone injections. It’s been reported that the Low T Center has some 35,000 patients and at least 45 office locations. Many attribute the Low T Center’s success to their easy-going, male-centered atmosphere. As they advertise on their website, every Low T Center “is built for your comfort with a man cave — what we call our waiting room.”
The waiting rooms often have sports themes and fitness magazines in them. Low T Centers advertise their services as easy remedies for men who want to regain their “youth and vitality”. They claim that they can diagnose low T in men after just two short visits using a blood test that returns results within 20 minutes. Follow up treatment visits take as little as 15 minutes.
History of Low T center?
The story of the Low T Center really begins in 1995, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) signed off on the first pharmaceutical medication for testosterone deficiency. The patch was called Androderm and it promised to help the estimated five million men who suffered from low testosterone. But Androderm and the many testosterone boosting medications that came out in its wake were far more successful than anyone had imagined.
By 2003, the estimated market for low testosterone drugs had exploded to be closer to 20 million men. A 2014 study found that androgen (synthetic testosterone) use among men over the age of 40 had increased more than three-fold between 2001 and 2011, from 0.81 percent to nearly 3 percent.
One of those men who began using synthetic testosterone in those years was named Mike Sisk. Speaking to the Houston Press Mike Sisk describes the feeling that he got when he first started the therapy:
“I was like, ‘There’s no way this shot makes me feel this good and something bad not happen.'”
In fact, he was so excited about his results that he started working on his own low testosterone treatment center right away. Sisk opened the first Low T Center in Texas in 2010. He had financed the project out of his own savings, but, according to Forbes, the company was making a profit within 11 months of opening. From there, it rapidly expanded within Texas and other states across the country. Today, there are over 40 Low T Center office locations.
Beginning in 2013, there was a barrage of bad press surrounding the Low T Center practices and standards. Experts in the fields of endocrinology and urology began to take a closer look at the effects and side effects of testosterone treatments like those given at the Low T Center. Dr. Bill Reilly, a chief medical officer at Low T Center, insists that Low T Centers have ethical guidelines and regularly turn away men who do not really need their services. However, this did little to stop the criticisms and complaints.
Following the increased scrutiny of low testosterone treatments and facilities, the medical community began to tighten its standards. In 2014, the FDA voted to refine the language used on synthetic testosterone medications. In 2018, the Endocrine Society published far more stringent guidelines about how to diagnose and treat men with low testosterone. Despite these criticisms and changes in the medical standards, the Low T Center continues to thrive with their quick-diagnoses and easy treatment options.
Why people visit Low T center?
The Low T Center’s list of possible symptoms of low testosterone is long and includes:
- Increased hair loss
- Decreased energy
- Changes in sleep pattern
- Decreases in self-confidence
- Reduced muscle mass and strength
- Decreased libido
Because the symptoms of low testosterone overlap so directly and consistently with the regular symptoms of aging, it can be hard to identify what the exact cause of your problems is. The Low T Center seems to embrace the idea that what they’re treating is not low testosterone so much as the aging process itself.
Their motto is: “Getting older does not have to feel like it!”
Some men may visit a Low T Center simply because they feel tired or ‘off’. However, before you can get treated at a Low T Center, you have to at least test in the low range for testosterone.
Who can get treated at Low T center?
According to the Low T Center, testosterone levels for healthy men range from 350 ng/dL to 1,000 ng/dL. They will treat any man who tests below the 350 ng/dl mark and does not have complicating conditions. The Low T Center website states that some of the conditions that can interact negatively with testosterone injections and may make you ineligible for treatment are:
- Breast or prostate cancer
- A palpable prostate nodule
- Untreated obstructive sleep apnea
- Severe benign prostatic hyperplasia symptoms
- Uncontrolled severe heart failure
- Unexplained PSA elevation
- Severe lower urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hypertrophy
- Unstable severe congestive heart failure
Low T Center says that their offices are “designed so men can walk in, take a quick blood test, and know if they have low testosterone in about 20 minutes.” After that initial blood test, men are required to take a second test that “confirms the diagnosis of low testosterone.” After the second test and diagnosis, a medical professional from the Low T Center will talk with you about treatment options. The treatment option that is available at the Low T Center itself is an injection of synthetic testosterone.
If patients elect to begin the injections, they will need to return every 7-10 days to receive the treatment at the center. Each of these follow-up visits takes about 10-15 minutes. The cost for testosterone hormone therapy at Low T Centers is $395 without insurance. The Low T Center accepts most major health insurance plans, but not all health insurance plans apply the same diagnostic criteria as the Low T Center. In order to be covered by insurance, a patient may have to receive a diagnosis or referral from their primary care physician.
Low T center complaints
Even though the growing popularity of Low T treatments remains undeniable, the actual success of the treatments for the men who use them is more ambiguous. Part of the problem with diagnosing Low T is that beginning at about age 30, men’s testosterone levels naturally decline by about 1 percent every year. This drop coincides with other normal symptoms of aging, including fatigue, balding, and lower libido.
This means that men who are experiencing an average, healthy aging process can feel like they have low testosterone, even though they do not. Even for those who do have testosterone in the lower range, it’s not clear that the Low T Center treatments are actually effective. For many men who are on the cusp of the low testosterone range, treatment yields no benefits.
In a 2015 study in JAMA, researchers found that men who went from levels of 300 ng/dl to 500 ng/dl saw no improvement in their sex drive. However, men who begin treatment can become dependent on it, even if they are not experiencing improvement of their symptoms. Dr. Russel Williams, a urologist at Houston’s Male Reproductive Clinic, told the Houston Press that there are men who begin testosterone treatments, but then experience negative side effects when they try to stop.
“There are guys that say, ‘Enough is enough of these synthetics; I wanna have a baby.’” Williams said. “Well, we’ve got a problem. Or, ‘Enough of synthetics; I wanna make my own testosterone.’ We’ve got a problem.”
When men stop taking synthetic testosterone, their health and well-being can suddenly plummet. They can get depressed, fatigued, and feel worse than they ever did before treatments began. Besides the risk of withdrawal, men who take testosterone medications can experience acne, disturbed breathing, breast swelling, and high red blood cell counts. Longer term use has even more severe risks, such as a heart attack, stroke, and other cardiac issues.
Harvard University reports that one testosterone study had to be prematurely ended because their test subjects were gaining noticeably more heart problems than before. These risks mean that taking synthetic testosterone when it is not absolutely necessary can be a very risky thing to do. Worries about the overuse of synthetic testosterone treatments for men who don’t really need them have led many to directly criticize the Low T Center model of diagnosis and care.
Dr. Bradley Anawalt of the Hormone Health Network has stated that “they’re really out to prescribe as much testosterone as they possibly can, and it’s not clear that all these practices are completely safe.”
One common criticism of the Low T Center is that it pushes a single treatment option for low testosterone — injections — when there are easier, cheaper, and more natural remedies for many men.
Testosterone levels are always in flux. As a recent New York Times article reports, activities as mundane as watching your favorite sports team win a game can increase the levels of testosterone in the body. So, there are ways to naturally raise testosterone by changing your lifestyle and introducing healthy, testosterone enhancing activities.
Doctors like Anawalt and Williams advocate a treatment called ‘testosterone enhancement’ for many men who are not severely low in testosterone. This treatment does not require injections or synthetic hormones. Instead, it aims to increase the body’s productions of testosterone by exercising, dieting, and cutting out unhealthy habits like drug use. Low T Center does not offer these treatments for the men that come to their clinic, which has some worried that men are not receiving a true picture of their health problems and how they could be solved.
Low T center review
The Low T Center has been a very powerful force in promoting treatment for low testosterone among aging men. They’ve created an easy, quick, and convenient treatment option for men who test below the normal range in their testosterone count. However, the Low T Center has faced repeated criticism by experts in the field.
When asked about the complaint of over-diagnosing their patients, the Low T Center chief medical officer, Bill Reilly, said that they’ve turned away some 15,000 men who haven’t met their criteria. He also claimed that “you don’t need to be an endocrinologist. You don’t need to be a urologist [to treat men for low T]”. These explanations have done little to dampen the concerns of some doctors and former patients who continue to point to the negative, long-term side effects that synthetic testosterone can have on men.
Treatment facilities like the Low T Clinic offer a one-size-fits-all treatment, which may work very well for some people. However, for others, these treatments can be a waste of money, or even dangerous. So, if you feel like you’re experiencing the symptoms of low testosterone, the first thing to do is to consult with your regular primary care physician. They can assess how your symptoms fit into the larger picture of your health and can help you figure out a treatment plan that is safe and effective. That treatment plan may involve synthetic injections like those offered at Low T Centers, natural remedies that help your own body produce testosterone naturally, or a combination of both. Either way, you can get the treatment that is right for your individual case.