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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 3:33 pm

Im sorry but at 80 years old if you wanna get it up you should pay out of pocket...its called dysfunction for a reason

November 06, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I miss the SNL (Saturday Night Live) skit "Grouchy Old Men".

ann marie menta
November 06, 2012 at 3:24 pm

What is HRT?

November 06, 2012 at 3:10 pm

end up paying more

November 06, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Dalene I am 64 and would not wear a diaper,you can say that now while young,I was young once.I am blessed I only have 2 pills I have to take,which at my age is really good.Insurance could save alot of money if they helped get treatment instead of dening it because in the long run in up paying more.

November 06, 2012 at 3:00 pm

This article came across to me as being written by someone with limited experience and probably in good health.. The real issue is the overprescribing of any drug by our health care specialist and doctors. I am 60 years young,diabetic,cancer survivor and other health issues. I lead an active life style exercising and keeping myself in excellent health. I have been prescribed numerious drugs that I will research first before I make my decision to start their usage. 99% of them hit the trash. Just last week a dr wrote a prescription for HRT. Wow,.it hit the trash really fast and was written even though they knew I was a breast cancer survior.(Cancer feeds off hormones) Point here is each of us need to be very active an responsible in our health care choices, it could very well save our lifes. If any one needs the drugs listed in the article they certainly should have the right to have access to them. Health care needs can't be rashioned by untrained individuals making decisions based on dollar amounts instead of health care needs. Perhaps someone could figure out best to precribe when needed instead of grouping all Americans in one big block..I chose not to take the HRT and other drugs in the past ...this does not mean that there are not numerious other individuals whom would benefit from their usuage...lets hope that our goverment is never allowed to dictate our choices.

November 06, 2012 at 2:57 pm

These medications are important!!!
1. Who wants to walk around with pissy pants?
2. Mental alertness. O.K. this jerk thinks we should walk around in a fog all day.
3. HRT, again important to ward off other problems.
4. Insomnia...really? Who in this world doesn't know that cronic insomnia causes other health problems?
5. Aging skin...O.K. that's a wobbler.
6. Hair in alopecia. This is a problem as people afflicted tend to stop going out into the world, become depressed and this we all know adds to health problems.
7. sexual dysfunction. How horrible to sentence someone to suffer with this.

November 06, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Incontinence? Insomnia? At what age so these become acceptable? If I pee myself at 25 I get treatment but if I do it at 50, wear a diaper? Are you kidding me???

November 06, 2012 at 2:30 pm

The scary thing is that this is probably not just the opinion of the writer but is seriously being considered by insurance companies. I take hormone replacements because my doctor feels that it prevents critical health issues. Why not pay to prevent them rather than wait and treat a possibly more expensive problem.

November 06, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I take up to twenty pills a day. Without them, I'd be dead or dying. I am only 43 and have been on these medications for many years. Some of which are on this "vanity" list. I'm glad to have a medical system that treats me instead of passing me over.