I was sitting across from Jill, a long-term patient of mine who was in for her annual exam. The year before we had spent a lot of time talking about strategies to deal with painful intercourse that had left her pretty much in avoidance mode. She had left my office with a prescription for alocal vaginal estrogen product along with a number of over the counter recommendations.
“So, how are things going sexually” She gave a dismissive wave of her hand, and said, “We gave up on that. ” What about all the things we discussed last year?” “Frankly”, she said,” Between my husband’s issues and my issues we added it up and realized we couldn’t afford it. It’s OK. “
Couldn’t afford sex? Sex is one of the few pleasures in life that’s free! That’s like saying you couldn’t afford to go for a walk, or give your partner a nice massage. And for some people, that’s true. But shame on me, I had never really considered the cost of the products that for some people, don’t just makes intercourse pleasurable, but make it possible. Even if you have insurance that covers part of the cost of the prescription products, many Americans are uninsured or underinsured. Over the counter products are rarely covered.
So I added it up and was shocked at the economics of midlife sex. Here’s what I came up with as the average annual cost for a typical couple that has sex twice a week and requires a little help to keep things going:
Silicone Lubricant $15.99 (roughly 4 bottles/year) $64
Local Vaginal Estrogen $40-80/month $720
Long Acting Vaginal Moisturizer $19 /month $240
Erectile Dysfunction Medication $35/pill $3,360
Doctor’s visits to get prescriptions $300
Not everyone requires all these products, but depending on what someone needs, it’s dramatically cheaper to go to the movies one a week than to make love. And that’s not including the cost of a little new lingerie, candles, a vibrator and maybe the occasional bottle of champagne. I wondered how many of my patients had given up their sex lives not just because it was difficult or painful, but also because if there was a choice between buying groceries or buying Viagra, eating trumps pleasure.
The solution? You can get some breaks by checking out the coupons on the pharmaceutical web sites. See if your insurance will cover over the counter products if you have a doctor’s prescription. Ask your doctor for samples and see if a ½ Viagra and vaginal estrogen once a week rather than twice a week will do the trick. Beware the mail order stuff, (it’s almost always fake!) and tell your children that next mother’s day, skip the flowers and send some lube.
Originally pubished Aug 16, 2013 Everyday Health