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Do we really need wrinkle cream?

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Monday, November 5, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

Be sure to factor the cost of looking and feeling young into your retirement planning because the drugs that prime the fountain of youth aren't cheap.

Express Scripts, one of the largest pharmacy management companies in the U.S., studied the cost of prescription drugs that help improve quality of life among those who are getting older. Think Cialis -- a drug advertised so widely that you can't watch TV without knowing what it does and how it treats a problem that certainly isn't life-threatening.

"These drugs treat conditions that have been medicalized in the last 20 years. Before that, they were considered normal conditions related to aging," says Reethi Iyengar, senior manager of health services research for Express Scripts.

The study focused on the increase in usage and the rising cost of prescription drugs that treat:

  • Noninfectious urinary symptoms, especially incontinence.
  • Mental alertness (not dementia).
  • Hormone replacement therapy.
  • Insomnia.
  • Aging skin.
  • Hair loss.
  • Sexual dysfunction.

In 2011, the study found that Express Scripts' privately insured customers were spending an average of $73.33 per year per patient on these kinds of drugs. That is more than the $62.84 average per year that they were spending on drugs to treat high blood pressure and heart disease, and only slightly less than the $78.38 spent treating high cholesterol or the $81.12 spent treating diabetes.

From 2006 through 2011, spending on anti-aging drugs by Express Scripts' clients that manage private insurance plans rose 46 percent, while utilization on anti-aging drugs by Express Scripts' Medicare-funded clients rose 32 percent.

Frivolous expenses?

The study didn't come right out and say that these drugs shouldn't be covered by insurers or Medicare, but it did raise some sticky questions that anyone thinking about ways to control health care costs should also consider. The study suggested that if people spend all their money on drugs to treat normal aging, they may not have enough left over for more critical health needs. It also speculated that a system like Medicare that devotes large amounts of money to treat age-related ailments might be forced to reduce what it spends on other, more serious health problems if there were a funding shortage.

"We're not saying that payment for these drugs should be eliminated, but these trends indicate a potential need for utilization management programs and cost-containment strategies," Iyengar says.

In other words, when times are tough and money for retirement is in short supply, do we really need to spend what we have on items such as wrinkle creams and hair-loss treatments?

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November 06, 2012 at 1:13 pm

Nothing like more "Greed" and corporate profits running our lives and telling us what the norm is for us.

If the forefathers that started this great nation saw what what it has evolved into, they would certainly roll over in their graves.

I think we all need even more B.S. shoved down our throats until we are all lethagic zombies........LOL!

November 06, 2012 at 1:11 pm

What ignorant person wrote this. The following are not VANITY medications!
*Noninfectious urinary symptoms, especially incontinence. (Gross ignorance to even include this in the list)
*Hormone replacement therapy. (Osteoporosis and other diseases are related to hormone levels)
*Insomnia (try going without sleep for more than a week, I dare you. Do you really want the sleep deprived working and driving???)

Ridiculous article.

November 06, 2012 at 1:00 pm

You think incontinence meds are unimportant? You try living with urinating in your pants everyday. Then see how unimportant that medication is.

Kay Jackson
November 06, 2012 at 12:59 pm

This must be a Republican statement. Because anyone with a brain knows these medications actually do help people, and is not a waste of health care money.

November 06, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I hav IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) Which is not only painful, but is having diarhia constantly. I have to have a medical prescription in order to keep the pain and diarhia in check. That is not a waste of money for medicare. That is a need of medical help for a medical condition. My medicare has not been paying for that medicine, to my knowledge, which they should. I am not thrilled about having this medical condition and it is embarressing when I have accidents due to running out of the medicine and not having the money to buy more. Just wait until to happens to you, which it has happened to many of us as we get older and there are some people that have had it for a very long time. Honestly, I Pray it doesn't happen to you. I have been doing without a lot of my medications due to medicare not paying enough that I can afford to pay for it. I do not get any other medical help o pay for my medicine and I get less than $ 500 each month to pay for my medical needs, food, etc. I have not asked for state help. If people on Social Security got enough of a payment each month, they would not be asking for medical help, nor asking for help with food, and other necessary needs just to live in this world. Odd how the USA can afford to help other countries before they help the people of their own country. There are many that have had to resort to doing without.

November 06, 2012 at 12:29 pm

While wrinkle creams, drugs for hair loss and sexual dysfunction may be unnecessary, I disagree about the first four: incontinence, mental alertness, hormonal problems & insomnia are all very real problems that can interfere with a person's ability to live normally. Perhaps we should concentrate more on lowering the ridiculous prices for these drugs so that they're more affordable instead of telling people to pee themselves, forget everything, deal with hot flashes and just not sleep?

November 06, 2012 at 12:28 pm

marijana is better for me!] than pills and boozes pills and boozes make me sick

November 06, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I am 80 years old and have never had a need for these kinds of drugs.

November 06, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I have had problems with incontinence since my middle 30's. Age related--I don't think so. Without bladder spasm meds, I would not be able to leave my house. Vanity medicine--again, I don't think so!!

November 06, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Incontinence, ED, menopausal symptoms, etc. a "normal part of aging?" Studies have shown that men who aren't having sexual relations in middle age and beyond are at a higher risk of prostate cancer than are men who are having sexual relations. A medication that lowers the risk of prostate cancer is a vanity drug? I guess that would make medication that lowers a woman's risk for breast cancer or recurring breast cancer is a vanity drug, too. Cialis is also known for treating enlarged prostate. I might not have to get up off and on during the night to urinate and have to struggle to get a stream going like older men often have to, but that doesn't mean that taking a medication that helps to eliminate this problem should be considered a vanity drug. Hormones help eliminate symptoms of menopause and being awakened with night sweats, having hot flashes, and the other symptoms of menopause doesn't consider their medications vanity drugs. A lot of these medications are prescribed to treat symptoms that come on while people are still working, and as such, have a tremendous impact on their being able to function on and off the job. Treating incontinence is a vanity treatment? Women who have given birth are at a higher risk of developing stress incontinence (urination with coughing, lifting, sneezing, etc.). Being out in public, entertaining at home, or being on the job and having to fear sneezing or coughing because you don't want to urinate in your clothing isn't being vain. Untreated stress incontinence does severely limit one's participation in life's activities. Insomnia does interfere with activities of daily living, such as working. It's really hard to work when you haven't gotten sleep before going into work. Not to mention, it's also dangerous to drive when you're sleep deprived. I'm sure this writer is young enough to not be going through what she considers "normal results of aging." These drugs weren't being used 20 years ago because they didn't exist. If medications that improve the quality of life for older people are perhaps not a wise expenditure of health care dollars, then why would medications that improve the quality of life for younger people be a wise expenditure of the same dollars? "Normal" is really a polar term and what is "normal" for you may not be "normal" for me. Any medication that treats any disease or condition could be considered as a medication that improves the quality of life. Asthma comes immediately to mind. Asthmatics often have to regulate their physical activity and environment to alleviate symptoms. Wheezing may not be life-threatening, but it sure reduces the quality of life for someone who has to change their environment or activity levels (including working) to accommodate this condition. The attitude that certain medications are nothing but "vanity drugs," and taking the decision-making about health care away from doctors and their patients is one of the biggest problems with Obamacare. Non-health care providers are't the people who should be determining what medications are needed for patients. Just because a medication is advertised on TV doesn't make it a vanity drug. With the IRS managing Obamacare, that's really frightening. IRS agents have enough trouble understanding the tax code and our politicians think they'll find understanding thousands upon thousands of medical conditions so as to be able to reasonably regulate the expenditure of health care dollars easier?