Anti-Aging Medicine: Forever Young
Florida is home to more anti-aging doctors than any other state -- and they're finding many patients willing to spend thousands to feel like they did in their 20s and 30s.
Dr. Mark Rosenberg, a former emergency room physician, sees around 500 patients at his anti-aging practice in Delray Beach. Now 49, Rosenberg could pass for 30-something. What’s his secret? For one, he doesn’t eat a lot. “The only method shown to actually slow the aging process is calorie restriction. I only eat 1,400 calories a day. That’s really slowed the aging process.” He also gives himself twice-weekly intravenous infusions of antioxidants and takes somewhere between 60 and 80 supplements a day. That’s why, he explains, his skin “looks younger than everybody else’s my age.” [Photo: Scott Wiseman]
While the sector’s growth is being fueled by affluent Baby Boomers eager to recapture their youth, the field is also attractive to physicians fed up with high caseloads and the hassles of dealing with insurance companies. Because insurers won’t cover many anti-aging treatments, anti-aging physicians generally operate on a fee-for-service basis. They benefit in several ways: Treatments are lucrative, patients pay upfront in cash, and since the physicians don’t need administrative staff to process insurance claims, they can hold down their office expenses.
Malpractice insurance rates are also considerably lower. Dr. Jennifer Landa, an OB/GYN who opened an anti-aging practice in Maitland three years ago, says her medical malpractice premiums ran about $100,000 a year when she was delivering babies. As an anti-aging specialist, she pays less than $10,000 a year. Freed from the constraints of insurance reimbursement rates that dictate a high patient volume, Landa is able to devote considerably more time to her patients, most of whom come to her looking for relief from the symptoms of menopause and andropause, or male menopause. While the average physician might spend about eight minutes with a patient, an initial visit with Landa lasts about an hour, and follow-ups generally last 30 minutes.
Anti-aging treatments typically involve some combination of a customized nutrition and fitness program along with hormone replacement therapy using “bioidentical” hormones, which are derived from plant oil and altered to become identical to human hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Anti-aging doctors believe bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is safer than synthetic estrogens and progesterones that have been shown to increase a woman’s risk for heart disease, stroke, blood clots and cancer.
Landa charges her female patients $495 for initial lab work that includes both blood and saliva testing. Men pay $595. Once the test results are in, an initial consult costs $495. Prescriptions for hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can average $35 or more each per month per hormone. Follow-up lab tests run about $250, and follow-up office visits are $275. Add in the costs of various “nutriceuticals” recommended by the doctor, and a typical patient taking two hormone supplements might spend upward of $3,000 annually.
With celebrities like Suzanne Somers singing the praises of BHRT, Landa and other anti-aging doctors say they’ve had no shortage of patients willing to pay big bucks to feel more like they did in their 20s or 30s.
Linda Gloria, a 56-year-old physician practice management consultant in Coral Springs, says she began seeing Fisher five years ago when she was in the throes of perimenopause, the period when a woman’s body begins to transition into menopause. “After the birth of my last child at 43, I didn’t feel quite right with the hormones. I had gone to my regular OB/GYN who said that after three kids, that’s normal?—?but a week out of the month I wanted to kill everyone.”
Fisher diagnosed Gloria with several hormone deficiencies and put her on a regimen of bioidentical progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. He also helped her fine-tune her diet and exercise routine. Gloria says the regimen has made a huge difference. Sleep comes easily now, she says, and she finds that she is calmer and able to tolerate everyday stresses better than before. Moreover, she has been able to avoid the hot flashes and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause. Gloria is so pleased with the results that she encourages her friends who are in their 40s and 50s to get their hormone levels tested. “Just because you’re in your 50s, doesn’t mean you have to turn into an old lady.”