Can’t buy you love? Prices for sexual drugs make medicines out of the reach

The Beatles “Can’t Buy Me Love” had teenagers dancing in the sixties. Ironically, some of these teens, now in their 60s and older, may have trouble paying for the drugs that now need to have a normal love life.

Rising prices for prescription drugs for impotence and other sexual health problems have made remedies out of the reach of some.

Without insurance coverage, Viagra and Cialis cost about $ 50 per pill, tripling their 2010 list prices. The new daily pill for women with low sexual desire, called Addyi, costs $ 800 per month. Older products for women have also seen huge price hikes, according to Truven Health Analytics data.

“Many of them do not pass the pharmacy counter once they see the price,” says Sheryl Kingsberg, a behavioral psychologist and researcher at the University of Cleveland Medical Center who advises men and women.

What people actually pay out of their pocket varies. Some prescription insurance plans, including Medicare, cover some of the drugs. Some plans do not cover any, arguing that they are not medically necessary. Many require steep copays or limit the number of impotence pills per prescription.

“Once you get to a certain price point, sex becomes a financial decision,” says Dr. Elizabeth Kavaler, a specialist in sexual dysfunction at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “It takes a lot of joy out of this.”

Five of the six specialists interviewed by The Associated Press say patients have been told they have given up on sex because of the cost.

Now, a little relief is coming. By the end of next year, Viagra and Cialis will get at least one generic competitor that costs a little less; Prices will be submerged later when more generic products reach the market. For the women, a rival of Addyi is in tests of last stage. Some other products now have generic versions, and other options are in development.

A generation ago, long married couples agreed that their sex lives were ruined with age, says Kavaler. Key hormone levels fall with age, reducing sex drive and causing problems such as impotence and vaginal dryness, which often make intercourse painful.

Today, middle-aged divorce is more common, divorced or widowed men and women often seek new partners, and sex is again important again. Meanwhile, they are bombarded by advertisements for impotence remedies and other treatments.

“Couples in their 50s, 60s and 70s are more sexual than they have ever been,” says Kavaler.

Until Pfizer launched the first impotence pill, Viagra, in 1998, there were few options for men in addition to penile implants and injections. Viagra and Cialis quickly surpassed $ 1 billion in global annual sales, and products for women’s symptoms eventually followed. However, price increases seem to limit the use of some products in the United States, where prices are unregulated.

Since 2010, the number of filled Viagra prescriptions in the US Has dropped 42 percent to about 5 million a year. Meanwhile, prescriptions for Cialis, which now has a popular daily pill option, have risen slightly, according to QuintilesIMS health data firm.

Estrogen products from popular women like Vagifem vaginal tablets and Estrace cream have also seen decreases in prescriptions in recent years. Addyi, only on the market for a year, has had disappointing sales.

Dr. Lauren Streicher offers women four treatment options, most of which include Vagifem. Monthly supply costs $ 170 and insurance coverage is limited. A generic version, Yuvafem, has just launched at a slightly cheaper price.

“They go to their pharmacy and see how much it costs, and then they call me and say ‘I can not do it,'” says Streicher, director of the Center for Sexual Medicine and Menopause at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago.

But not being able to have sex “is a decisive factor in many relationships,” he adds.

Drug makers insist that list prices far outweigh the negotiated prices insurers pay for and say product prices are based on value. According to companies, almost all of their clients are insured. Pfizer says most of Viagra’s insured users pay $ 6 to $ 8 per pill, for example.

Patients who do not want to give up sex, say doctors, split pills or ration other medications, ask for scarce samples or look for copay coupons. Men with enlarged prostates can apply for Cialis because it is also approved for that condition, usually with insurance coverage. Some women are satisfied with over-the-counter lubricants.

Many shops by price, which can vary widely by pharmacy.

Others take a big risk, buying “Viagra herbal” at gas stations or order online Viagra from “Canadian pharmacies” that are likely to sell counterfeit drugs in poor countries, says Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of St. Diego Sexual Medicine.

Some doctors have become inventive.

Dr. Nachum Katlowitz, head of urology at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, offers an alternative that costs about $ 1 per pill in some pharmacies. The active ingredient in Viagra – sildenafil – is also found in the now generic Pfizer, Revatio, but in a fifth of the dose.

One of his patients, a 62-year-old hospital technician, takes several of the blood pressure pills before sex.

“I could not afford it if I had to pay for Viagra,” says Robert, who asked that his last name not be used to protect his privacy.

He has undergone modest improvements and says he and his 28-year-old wife now have sex twice as much.