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FDA Issues Black Box Warning on Testosterone Gel

The FDA is now requiring the makers of two prescription topical testosterone gel products to include a boxed warning on the labels. The move comes after reports of inadvertent exposure to eight children, aged nine months to five years. The drug is topically applied on the shoulders, arms, or abdomen. When transferred to children through secondary exposure (for example, children touching skin covered in the gel), the drug can cause enlargement of the genitalia, premature development of pubic hair, advanced bone age, and aggressive behavior.

The manufacturers of these products, Solvay Pharmaceuticals (AndroGel 1%) and Auxilium Pharmaceuticals (Testim 1%), already warn against exposure to the drug by children; however, the black box warning will enhance the visibility of the warning on the package inserts. Black box warnings are among the strongest safety measures the FDA can take, being reserved for medications with serious or life-threatening dangers.

There’s nothing to indicate that the companies did anything wrong—the dangers of secondary exposure are clearly noted in PDR guides, which warn against allowing others to come into contact with gel-covered skin. And of course, doctors who prescribe the medication should warn their patients about these risks.