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

31 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

Funding Information:
The research reported/outlined here was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Health Services Research and Development (VA HSR&D) Service. Dr. Jasuja is a VA HSR&D Career Development awardee at the Bedford VA (CDA 13–265). The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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


  • patient
  • predictors
  • prescribing
  • testosterone


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