Study: Cost of Medication Soaring for Normal Age-Related Maladies
(CNSNews.com) – It’s no fun to grow old, and it’s not cheap, either.
Prescription-drug treatment regimens for normal, age-related conditions now cost the nation more than many serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, according to a new study by Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefits-management company.
The study found that in 2011, spending on medications for aging conditions — such as mental alertness, sexual dysfunction, menopause, dry skin and hair loss — ranked third in annual prescription-drug costs among the commercially insured, surpassed only by the cost of treating diabetes and high cholesterol.
Among these commercially insured individuals, the use of drugs to treat the physical impact associated with normal aging was up 18.5 percent and costs increased nearly 46 percent from 2006 to 2011.
(In a commercially insured plan, the employer pays a premium to an insurance company or HMO for a certain package of health benefits).
Increased use of anti-aging drugs was even more pronounced for Medicare recipients (age 65-plus), up 32 percent from 2007 to 2011, the study found.
But the largest utilization jump among Medicare beneficiaries was from 2010 to 2011, up more than 13 percent and outpacing increases in the use of drugs for diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure combined.
The findings were presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in San Francisco,
"There is no doubt that pharmaceutical advances and greater awareness have improved the quality of life for many aging Americans," said Dr. Glen Stettin, Express Scripts senior vice president. "What was not known, until now, is the significant cost associated with treating these conditions.”
Given the increasing number of people living longer, Stettin said it will become “increasingly important” to monitor and manage the spending on treatments associated with aging.
In 2011 alone, more than $73.3 million was spent for every 1 million commercially insured individuals, and the cost was nearly $90 million per 1 million Medicare members on these aging-related medications.
The number of elderly people in this country is projected to reach nearly 20 percent of the entire population by 2030, up from less than 13 percent in 2009. This increase will continue to drive both use and costs of medications to treat the natural conditions of aging, researchers said.
The study also showed that while utilization and drug costs were highest among older commercially insured individuals, the greatest growth in cost per insured was seen among the 45 to 54 age group — up almost 21 percent over the five-year period.
The study analyzed only prescription medications and therefore may underestimate the total costs of aging treatments, which include a variety of over-the-counter medications, cosmetic treatments and surgery.
Express Scripts manages more than a billion prescriptions each year for tens of millions of people. Its clients include employers, health plans, unions and government health programs.