Who Gets Testosterone? Patient Characteristics Associated with Testosterone Prescribing in the Veteran Affairs System: a Cross-Sectional Study

Guneet K. Jasuja*, Shalender Bhasin, Joel I. Reisman, Joseph T. Hanlon, Donald R. Miller, Anthony P. Morreale, Leonard M. Pogach, Francesca E. Cunningham, Angela Park, Dan R. Berlowitz, Adam J. Rose

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: There has been concern about the growing off-label use of testosterone. Understanding the context within which testosterone is prescribed may contribute to interventions to improve prescribing. Objective: To evaluate patient characteristics associated with receipt of testosterone. Design: Cross-sectional. Setting: A national cohort of male patients, who had received at least one outpatient prescription within the Veterans Affairs (VA) system during Fiscal Year 2008– Fiscal Year 2012. Participants: The study sample consisted of 682,915 non-HIV male patients, of whom 132,764 had received testosterone and a random 10% sample, 550,151, had not. Main Measures: Conditions and medications associated with testosterone prescription. Key Results: Only 6.3% of men who received testosterone from the VA during the study period had a disorder of the testis, pituitary or hypothalamus associated with male hypogonadism. Among patients without a diagnosed disorder of hypogonadism, the use of opioids and obesity were the strongest predictors of testosterone prescription. Patients receiving >100 mg/equivalents of oral morphine daily (adjusted odds ratio = 5.75, p < 0.001) and those with body mass index (BMI) >40 kg/m2 (adjusted odds ratio = 3.01, p < 0.001) were more likely to receive testosterone than non-opioid users and men with BMI <25 kg/m2. Certain demographics (age 40–54, White race), comorbid conditions (sleep apnea, depression, and diabetes), and medications (antidepressants, systemic corticosteroids) also predicted a higher likelihood of testosterone receipt, all with an adjusted odds ratio less than 2 (p < 0.001). Conclusions: In the VA, 93.7% of men receiving testosterone did not have a diagnosed condition of the testes, pituitary, or hypothalamus. The strongest predictors of testosterone receipt (e.g., obesity, receipt of opioids), which though are associated with unapproved, off-label use, may be valid reasons for therapy. Interventions should aim to increase the proportion of testosterone recipients who have a valid indication.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)304-311
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Society of General Internal Medicine.


  • patient
  • predictors
  • prescribing
  • testosterone


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