Clinical Policy Bulletin: Androgens and Anabolic Steroids
Note: Most policies specifically exclude coverage of steroids for performance enhancement. For plans without this exclusion, androgens and anabolic steroids as well as other medical interventions for performance enhancement are not covered because performance enhancement of non-diseased individuals is not considered treatment of disease or injury. Please check benefit plan descriptions for details.
Aetna considers anabolic steroids medically necessary for any of the following indications:
AIDS wasting syndrome; or
Anemia accompanying renal failure; or
Bone marrow failure anemias; or
Breast cancer; or
Conditions associated with decreased fibrinolytic activity due to anti-thrombin III deficiency or fibrinogen excess (including cutaneous vasculitis, scleroderma of Raynaud's disease, vasculitis of Behcet's disease, complications of deep vein thrombosis such as venous lipodermatosclerosis, other vascular disorders associated with these forms of reduced fibrinolytic activity, and prevention of recurrent venous thrombosis associated with anti-thrombin III deficiency); or
Constitutional delay in growth (androgenic anabolic steroids); or
Delayed male puberty (androgenic anabolic steroids); or
Growth failure in children with growth hormone deficiency (treatment adjunct); or
Hereditary angioedema; or
Hypospadias (testosterone injection as pre-surgical adjuvant hormonal therapy); or
Klinefelter's syndrome with hypogonadism (androgenic anabolic steroids) (see appendix); or
Microphallus (androgenic anabolic steroids); or
Refractory red cell production anemias (including aplastic anemia, myelofibrosis, myelosclerosis, agnogenic myeloid metaplasia, hypoplastic anemias caused by malignancy or myelotoxic drugs); or
Severe burn injury; or
Symptomatic androgen deficiency in men* (androgenic anabolic steroids) (see appendix); or
Weight loss from cancer chemotherapy.
* Injectable androgens are considered experimental and investigational for treatment of female menopause because of insufficient evidence in the peer-reviewed literature.
Aetna considers androgen therapy experimental and investigational to improve live birth outcome in poor responders undergoing in-vitro fertilization/intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection treatment l because of insufficient evidence.
Aetna considers androgens and anabolic steroids experimental and investigational as a treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and for other indications because of insufficient evidence in the peer-reviewed literature.
Aetna considers testosterone injections experimental and investigational for the treatment of female sexual dysfunction/hypoactive sexual desire disorder because of insufficient evidence in the peer-reviewed literature.
Androgens and anabolic steroids include:
In a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 16-week study, Sharma et al (2008) examined the benefits of anabolic steroids in patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who did not participate in a structured rehabilitation program. Biweekly intra-muscular injections of either the drug (nandrolone decanoate) or placebo were administered. A total of 16 patients with severe COPD were randomized to either placebo or nandrolone decanoate. The placebo group weighed 55.32 +/- 11.33 kg at baseline and 54.15 +/- 10.80 kg at 16 weeks; the treatment group weighed 68.80 +/- 6.58 kg at baseline and 67.92 +/- 6.73 kg at 16 weeks. Lean body mass remained unchanged, 71 +/- 6 kg versus 71 +/- 7 kg in placebo group and 67 +/- 7 kg versus 67 +/- 7 kg in treatment group, at baseline and 16 weeks respectively. The distance walked oin 6 mins was unchanged at baseline, 8 weeks, and 16 weeks in placebo (291.17 +/- 134.83 m, 282.42 +/- 115.39 m, 286.00 +/- 82.63 m) and treatment groups (336.13 +/- 127.59 m, 364.83 +/- 146.99 m, 327.00 +/- 173.73 m). No improvement occurred in forced expiratory volume in 1 second, forced vital capacity, maximal inspiratory pressure, maximal expiratory pressure, VO(2) max or 6-min walk distance or health related quality of life. The authors concluded that administration of anabolic steroids (nandrolone decanoate) outside a dedicated rehabilitation program did not lead to either weight gain, improvement in physiological function, or better quality of life in patients with severe COPD.
It is interesting to note that while testosterone treatment improved body composition and sexual function in men with COPD in a 6-month trial, no improvement in pulmonary function was found (Svartberg et al, 2004).
Miller and Btaiche (2009) stated that severe thermal injury is associated with hyper-metabolism and hyper-catabolism, leading to skeletal muscle breakdown, lean body mass loss, weight loss, and negative nitrogen balance. Muscle protein catabolism in patients with severe thermal injury is the result of stress-induced increased release of cytokines and counter-regulatory hormones. Coupled with decreased serum anabolic hormone concentrations such as testosterone and growth hormone along with the presence of insulin resistance, anabolism in patients with severe thermal injury is inefficient or impossible during the acute post-burn period. This causes difficulty in restoring lean body mass and regaining lost body weight, as well as poor healing of the burn wound and delayed patient recovery. Oxandrolone, a synthetic derivative of testosterone, has been used in adult patients with severe thermal injury to enhance lean body mass accretion, restore body weight, and accelerate wound healing. In clinical studies, oxandrolone 10 mg orally twice-daily improved wound healing, restored lean body mass, and accelerated body weight gain. During the rehabilitation period, oxandrolone therapy with adequate nutrition and exercise improved lean body mass, increased muscle strength, and restored body weight. However, most data on oxandrolone use in adult patients with severe thermal injury were derived from single-center studies, many of which enrolled a relatively small number of subjects and some of which had a poor design. The authors stated that multi-center, prospective, randomized studies are needed to better define the optimal oxandrolone dosage and to confirm the safety and effectiveness of this drug in adult patients with severe thermal injury.
Woerdeman and de Ronde (2010) stated that a variety of clinical conditions/diseases are complicated by loss of weight and skeletal muscle, which may contribute to morbidity and mortality. Anabolic androgenic steroids have been demonstrated to increase fat-free mass, muscle mass and strength in healthy men and women without major adverse events and therefore could be beneficial in these conditions. The authors provided an overview of clinical trials with anabolic androgenic steroids in the treatment of chronic diseases including HIV-wasting, chronic renal failure, COPD, muscular disease, alcoholic liver disease, burn injuries and post-operative recovery. Relevant studies were identified in PubMed (years 1950 to 2010), bibliographies of the identified studies and the Cochrane database. Although the beneficial effects of anabolic androgenic steroids in chronic disorders are promising, clinically relevant endpoints such as quality of life, improved physical functioning and survival were mainly missing or not significant, except for burn injuries. The authors concluded that more studies are needed to confirm their long-term safety and effectiveness.
Oxandrolone, an anabolic steroid used to treat muscle wasting in HIV patients, is associated with decreased loss of lean body mass, improved wound healing compared with placebo, and decreased hospital stay in severe burn injury (Wolf et al, 2006). However, oxandrolone may prolong the need for mechanical ventilation in trauma patients and can elevate serum transaminase levels.
Sunkara and colleagues (2011) noted that many trials have evaluated the use of androgen supplements and androgen-modulating agents to improve outcome of poor responders undergoingin-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment. These investigators performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials of androgen adjuvants (testosterone, dehydroepiandrostereone) and the androgen-modulating agent (letrozole) in poor responders undergoing IVF treatment. Searches were conducted on MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, ISRCTN Register and ISI proceedings. All randomized and non-randomized controlled trials were included. Study selection, quality appraisal and data extraction were performed independently and in duplicate. The main outcome measure was clinical pregnancy rate. The secondary outcome measures were dose and duration of gonadotrophin use, cycles cancelled before oocyte retrieval, oocytes retrieved and ongoing pregnancy rates. A total of 2,481 cycles in women considered as poor responders undergoing IVF/intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment were included in 9 controlled trials. Meta-analyses of these studies did not show any significant difference in the number of oocytes retrieved and ongoing pregnancy/live-birth rates with androgen supplementation or modulation compared with the control groups. The authors concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence from the few randomized controlled trials to support the use of androgen supplementation or modulation to improve live birth outcome in poor responders undergoing IVF/ICSI treatment.
Makinen and Huhtaniemi (2011) stated that normal testicular function is essential for the maintenance of male physical strength and behavior irrespective of age. A new term of late-onset hypogonadism (LOH) has been coined for the condition of decreased testosterone and hypogonadal symptoms in aging men. The most important testicular hormone, testosterone, is responsible for the gender-specific androgenic-anabolic effects in men. Testicular production of testosterone remains stable until around the age of 40 years after which it declines by 1 to 2 % annually. Despite this age-related decline, serum testosterone levels in most older men remain within the reference range of younger men. The decreasing androgen levels are paralleled by well-defined objective biological and non-specific subjective signs and symptoms of aging. Because these symptoms are similar to those observed in young men with documented hypogonadism, androgen replacement therapy (ART) has been considered a logical way to treat them. These researchers conducted a thorough review of the existing literature to evaluate the current concepts and controversies related to aging men and ART. Although it is intuitively logical that the symptoms of LOH are due to the aging-related deficiency of testosterone, and that they can be reversed by ART, the evidence for this is still variable and often weak. In particular, evidence-based information about long-term benefits and risks of ART in aging men is largely missing. The authors concluded that despite widespread use, evidence-based proof for the objective benefits and side effects of ART of elderly men is still scanty, and such treatments should be considered experimental.
Shelton and Rajfer (2012) noted that androgen deficiency in aging men is common, and the potential sequelae are numerous. In addition to low libido, erectile dysfunction, decreased bone density, depressed mood, and decline in cognition, studies suggest strong correlations between low testosterone, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome. Because causation and its directionality remain uncertain, the functional and cardiovascular risks associated with androgen deficiency have led to intense investigation of testosterone replacement therapy in older men. Although promising, evidence for definitive benefit or detriment is not conclusive, and treatment of LOH is complicated.
Androgen deficiency is indicated by either a low testosterone level (below 200 ng/dL), or a low normal testosterone levels (above 200 ng/dL but below 500 ng/dL) plus elevated sex hormone binding globulin (above the normal reference range indicated in the table below or above the testing laboratory's normal reference range).
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