GPs fear a deluge of patients demanding the new patches, launched today, which alleviate the problems of declining testosterone levels, including loss of libido, impotence, fatigue, loss of muscle power, and depression.
The male menopause has been touted as the cause of these symptoms. Many men hoped that testosterone hormone replacement therapy would have the same rejuvenating effect on them as oestrogen patches do on women. But at a conference on the Andropatch yesterday, Dr Ian Banks, a part- time GP, said there was no evidence in men of an equivalent of the female menopause. Healthy males do not have a dramatic drop in testosterone levels in middle-age.
"What we do know about middle age is that it is a time of uncertainty and failing confidence, with an inability to fit the media image of a sexually powerful, competitive, macho male, compounded by the fear of ageing," Dr Banks, a middle-aged man, said. "It is tempting to ... put all this down to a lack of sex hormone." The belief that the patches were "an elixir of life" did a grave disservice to the public - and the health service," he said. The patches will cost the NHS around pounds 45 a month per patient, and tests prior to prescription will cost at least pounds 30.
The Andropatch will benefit between 20,00-30,000 men who suffer from hypogonadism (testosterone deficiency). Dr Richard Foulds, medical director of the manufacturer, SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals, said they wanted to encourage a responsible attitude towards prescribing the patches. However, executives know they have struck a goldmine. The idea of the male menopause has become fixed in the minds of many men who see no reason why they should not receive a testosterone boost.
Leading article, page 15