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.
- 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.
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?