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Study shows drug costs for normal aging conditions surpass costs of treating most chronic diseases

November 1, 2012
by Patricia Sheehan, Editor-in-Chief
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Prescription drug treatment regimens for conditions that are a normal part of aging are now costing the nation more than many serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, according to a new study.

The study finds that in 2011 spending on medications for aging conditions—such as mental alertness, sexual dysfunction, menopause, aging skin and hair loss—ranked third in annual prescription drug costs of the commercially insured, surpassed only by the cost of treating diabetes and high cholesterol.  

The study was presented Tuesday by Reethi Iyengar, PhD, representing pharmacy benefit management services company Express Scripts, at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in San Francisco.

The research found that among insured individuals 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. Increased use of these drugs was even more pronounced for the Medicare population (age 65+), up 32 percent from 2007 to 2011. The largest usage 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.

In 2011 alone, more than $73.3 million was spent for every one million commercially insured individuals, and the cost was nearly $90 million per one million Medicare members on the aging-related medications.

The study only analyzed 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.  

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