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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 2:27 pm

Insomnia has nothing to do with vanity. It can and does cause serious physical problems. The lack of sleep destroys the body and mind and if that is vanity then a few of these bureaucrats need to spend a few nights pacing the floors totally exhausted and unable to sleep. I have had very few sleepless nights but my sympathy goes out to those who suffer this every night.
As far as the remainder of those things I think it's up to the individual. I'm 71 and I fully expected to have wrinkles, saggy skin and thinning hair. Do I like it? No but it is part and parcel of who I am and how I have lived my life. If you want to judge me by what I look like instead of who I am then it is not my loss. My family and friends love me the way I am and that is what counts.

November 06, 2012 at 2:26 pm

This is the most ridiculous article I have EVER read. Incontinence, insomnia and hormone replacement therapy have no business being included on a list of vanity drugs, period.

November 06, 2012 at 2:25 pm

No way am I buying into this brainwashing & propaganda. The government is trying to avoid taking care of it's older citizens. A drug for insomnia, or one for mental alertness, or one for incontinence are all NOT vanity drugs. Excuse me! Sleep deprivation is a dangerous thing. Mental Alertness: Not being able to think clearly anymore?--Where is the quality of life? ...and we have a remedy, but don't offer it, and this can also again be a dangerous thing...especially if one of these people you've kept help away from, gets behind a wheel & gets on the road. Because the have full lives! And really...I agree with Mary in the comment above, you get old so you are not supposed to leave the house, because you need to stay within running distance of the toilet. Give me a break!

November 06, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Jennie L. Phipps has probably never delt with any of these issues. They may seem like vanity to her, wait untill she hits 50 yrs. old. What a dweeb

Earl D Morgan
November 06, 2012 at 2:15 pm

You konw if people would stop warrying about my medications
and take care of there's they be better off. I take what the
doctor gives me. I havent told him my picker won't get up but
i'll try that next time i visit him. I pead medicare for 35
years and ssa 60 years.

November 06, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Wow!!!! How I agree! I am 65, feel like I have been put on the 'time to put down--dog list' and I am not given anything to 'ease me out'. It is the intent of the 'government' to direct us to socialism. This is happening. I don't know why more of the population does not/will not/ cannot recognize this. Makes me very sad for my grandchildren.

Al V
November 06, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Generally speaking, I'm in agreement with the above list with the exception of one important one..."Insomnia". This is a debilitating condition that renders the patient ill beyond description. I suffer from this condition and I can tell you it is not cosmetic or non-esential.

It requires medical treatment and does not by any description belong in this list of meds including Cialis under this study. It is a condition that requires treatment and is not a option or condition that can be left untreated.

I work out lead a otherwise healthy lifestyle, watch my diet but sleep is elusive to people with Insomnia and leaves them debilitated and open to other health issues such as depression. Thanks to quality medications now availible for this condition I can sleep and live a normal, full life.

November 06, 2012 at 2:10 pm

We live in a society that has a pill for every purpose. The makers of these pills have been raping the public and Medicare for many years with the exorbitant prices of this medication. They advertise on T.V. to the point where the patient tells the doctor what prescription they want written. In many cases, the doctor writes it, and moves on to the next patient. There are those people on 10,12,14 different pills a day. There is not a doctor in the world that can know how that mixture of medicine, in an individuals system, will interact in a negative way. Probably the reason so many elderly are walking around in a stupor. I am 73.

November 06, 2012 at 2:04 pm

A drug that treats insomnia is a "vanity" drug? Who made that decision? Hormone replacement therapy? Really? Hard to take this article seriously.

November 06, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Since when are drugs used to treat incontinence considered a "vanity drug"? Is an
elderly person supposed to never venture more than 10 feet from the bathroom because the insurance companies are too profit hungry to care? Grrrrrrrr.