Insured Americans spend more on prescription drugs for conditions that are a normal part of aging than they spend on drugs for many potentially life-threatening conditions, according to a new study.
Spending on medications for normal aging-related conditions, such as mental alertness, sexual dysfunction, menopause, aging skin and hair loss, ranked third last year in annual prescription-drug costs among consumers with health insurance. Only the drug costs of treating diabetes and high cholesterol ranked higher.
St. Louis-headquartered Express Scripts, a prescription-drug benefit management company, conducted the study.
The research found that use of drugs among insured people to treat the impact of normal aging rose 18.5 percent, and costs of those drugs increased almost 46 percent from 2006 to 2011. Increased use of the drugs among people 65 and older was up 32 percent. The greatest growth in cost per insured person was among 45- to 54-year-olds -- up almost 21 percent over the five-year period.
"There is no doubt that pharmaceutical advances and greater awareness have improved the quality of life for many aging Americans," Dr. Glen Stettin, Express Scripts senior vice president of clinical, research and new solutions, said in a press statement. "What was not known, until now, is the significant cost associated with treating these conditions. Couple that with the proliferation of people living longer and it's clear that monitoring and managing the trend and spend from treating conditions associated with aging will become increasingly important."
With the number people age 65 and older projected to reach almost 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2030, the use and costs of medications to treat the natural conditions of aging will likely grow.