CHICAGO (CN) - Abbott Laboratories has persuaded millions of men that lack of energy is a sign of low testosterone, which can be cured by AndroGel, which significantly increases the risk of heart attacks, five men claim in separate lawsuits.
Stephen Benn sued AbbVie and Abbot Laboratories in Federal Court.
Citations in this article are taken from Benn's lawsuit, which resembles the other four.
AbbVie and Abbot Laboratories manufacture and distribute AndroGel, a testosterone replacement therapy. They created a website to tout a "quiz" whose own author dashed it off on toilet paper and called it a "crappy" test, according to the complaint. (See below.)
"Defendants misrepresented that AndroGel is a safe and effective treatment for hypogonadism or 'low testosterone,' when in fact the drug causes serious medical problems, including life-threatening cardiac events, strokes, and thrombolytic events," the complaint states.
"Defendants engaged in aggressive, award-winning direct-to-consumer and physician marketing and advertising campaigns for AndroGel. Further, defendants engaged in an aggressive unbranded 'disease awareness' campaign to alert men that they might be suffering from 'low T.'"
The defendants' "national education campaign included the creation and continued operation of the website www.IsItLowT.com," according to the complaint.
On the website IsItLowT.com, checked this morning (Thursday), a quiz asks men, inter alia,
if they have experienced a recent deterioration in their ability to play sports, if they fall asleep after dinner, lack energy, or feel sad and/or grumpy.
The quiz was developed by Dr. John Morley, director of endocrinology at St. Louis University School of Medicine, allegedly in exchange for a $40,000 grant to his university, the complaint states.
He was instructed to "make it somewhat sexy," according to the complaint.
Benn says in the lawsuit: "Dr. Morley drafted the questionnaire in 20 minutes in the bathroom, scribbling the questions on toilet paper and giving them to his secretary the next day to type up. Dr. Morely admits that he has 'no trouble calling it a crappy questionnaire' and that it is 'not ideal.' This is the 'Low T Quiz used on the 'IsItLowT website."
Many of the symptoms in the quiz can be explained by natural aging, but "defendants convinced millions of men to discuss testosterone replacement therapy with their doctors, and consumers and their physicians relied on defendants' promises of safety and ease," the complaint states.
Benn claims: "As a result of this 'disease mongering' as termed by Dr. Adriene Fugh-Berman of Georgetown University Medical Center, diagnoses of Low T have increased exponentially. This has directly related to AndroGel's sales increasing to over $1.37 billion per year.
"However, consumers of AndroGel were misled as to the drug's safety and efficacy, and as a result have suffered injuries including life-threatening cardiac events, strokes, and thrombolytic events."
Benn and the four other plaintiffs filed their lawsuits Monday, one day after a physician wrote in an op ed column for The New York Times that "Low T" is overdiagnosed, and that testosterone therapy may double the rate of heart attack in older men.
Benn is represented by Trent Miracle with Simmons, Browder, Gianaris, Angelides & Barnerd in Alton, Ill.