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The Times
  • Dr. Murray Feingold: Living longer increases demand for 'aging medications'

  • Due to better nutrition, improving health habits and medical advances, people are living longer. That’s the good news.

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  • Due to better nutrition, improving health habits and medical advances, people are living longer. That’s the good news.
    However, living longer is also associated with an increasing number of medical problems and issues.
    For example, our bones and joints weren’t made to withstand the wear and tear of 75 or 80 years of use. That is why so many individuals are now undergoing hip and knee replacements. They are a big expense.
    The same reasoning applies to the heart. A 70-year-old heart has been beating for a very long time, and as a result it is subjected to various forms of heart disease. That means eventual treatment for heart attacks, cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure and the need for heart transplants. Another big expense.
    The wear and tear associated with age takes place in all of the body’s organs, thus, eventually requiring treatment. Add more expenses.
    Then, there are the other conditions due to normal aging that impact a person’s life but are not life-threatening diseases. Treatments of these conditions also cost a lot of money. They include menopause, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, aging skin, hormone replacement therapy and more.
    The term "aging medications" has been used to describe the therapies that treat these conditions. Researchers determined that the costs each year for these aging medications was slightly greater than the cost of treating high blood pressure or heart disease, or other specific chronic diseases.
    Due to the cost of these medications, questions have been raised such as, should the federal government or health care plans pay for the Viagra Mr. Jones is taking to improve his sex life or, pay for the anti-wrinkle cream Mrs. Smith requests so she doesn’t look so old?
    This is just the tip of the iceberg because the older population continues to grow. And, as more and more people live longer, there will be an increasing demand for such aging medications. Add to these costs, the costs of treating older individuals who have life-threatening diseases, and we are on the road to an economic crisis.
    One health care expert has predicted if we continue on the financial path we are now traveling, like the auto industry, the health care industry will go bankrupt.
    So, look for a reappraisal, not only for paying the cost of aging medications, but for ways to significantly decrease the medical costs of the elderly.
    Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children and president of the Genesis Fund, a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.
     

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