Accessing the Longevity Clinic: A Fee of $100,000 Awaits You
Medical clinics are emerging worldwide, offering promises of extended and improved life for clients—provided they can afford the cost.
Longevity clinics aspire to address a spectrum of health issues, ranging from preventing chronic diseases to treating conditions like tennis elbow, all with the objective of optimizing patients' health for an extended lifespan. Clients are willing to pay up to $100,000 annually for treatments that may not always have conclusive evidence, including biological age testing, early cancer screenings, stem-cell therapies, and hair rejuvenation.
These centers leverage the prevailing American fascination with prolonged life and the demand for personalized medical care, even if it diverges from mainstream practices, according to industry investors and analysts.
Numerous doctors and scientists express caution, emphasizing that some treatments offered by these clinics lack robust scientific evidence and may even pose health risks. Dr. Andrea Maier, an aging researcher leading a nonprofit group dedicated to establishing medical standards in longevity medicine, notes the unregulated nature of the market, where individuals providing various treatments can claim to contribute to longevity without stringent oversight. Dr. Maier, who operates a longevity clinic in Singapore focused on treatments supported by human trials, highlights the importance of evidence-based practices.
Individuals visiting these clinics are often willing to take risks with their health, according to practitioners. The clientele typically consists of affluent individuals in their 40s to 60s who are observing signs of aging. Notably, providers report a recent trend of clients as young as those in their twenties seeking services at these clinics.
While there is no official count of longevity clinics, estimates provided by longevity researchers, doctors, and analysts vary, ranging from approximately 50 to 800 in the United States. Venture-capital investment in longevity clinics globally experienced a significant surge, more than doubling from $27 million in 2021 to $57 million in 2022, as reported by the longevity research and media company Longevity Technology. Phil Newman notes that around 70% of global investment in longevity clinics is concentrated in the United States.
The growing interest and investment in longevity clinics are attributed, in part, to affluent individuals, including millionaires and billionaires, seeking ways to extend their lifespan and enjoy their wealth for as long as possible.
Longevity clinics typically commence patient visits by assessing their specific goals, whether it involves extending life, weight management, or addressing symptoms of a health condition. Providers conduct comprehensive testing, including blood, skin, and urine tests, along with standard metrics such as height, weight, and blood pressure.
In the realm of longevity medicine, doctors may recommend early cancer screenings, body imaging such as MRI scans, and cognitive testing to establish a baseline of current health and identify early-stage issues. Some providers advocate the use of wearables to monitor metrics like resting heart rate or sleep quality.
These services often come at a high cost. For instance, practitioners at Healthy Longevity Clinic, with locations in Boca Raton, Fla., and Prague, create personalized "longevity road maps" for patients. The recommendations may cover areas such as diet, exercise, sleep, and supplements. Patients are encouraged to commit to the program for at least a year, with costs ranging from $25,000 to over $100,000 during that period.
It's noteworthy that longevity-clinic treatments are often not covered by health insurance. Some providers collaborate with insurers to secure coverage for medications or laboratory tests. Many clinics adopt membership-based models to maintain low client loads, enabling providers to allocate ample time to each patient. Alternatively, some clinics operate on a fee-for-service basis or a combination of both models.
Anita Wheaton, a 53-year-old life insurance agent in Tampa, Fla., finds the $2,800 annual membership fee for a telehealth longevity practice worthwhile due to the personalized attention she receives from her provider. It's important to note that this membership fee doesn't cover prescriptions and laboratory testing.
Under the guidance of her longevity practitioner at Everest Health, a Virginia-based clinic, Wheaton has explored various supplements and medications, made dietary adjustments such as temporarily cutting out alcohol and meat, resulting in positive outcomes. These changes have aided in managing her conditions, including endometriosis and the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s disease, while also leading to a weight loss of over 30 pounds.
Wheaton emphasizes the value of investing in her quality of life, stating, “To not just live longer, but live healthier.” Everest Health founder Danielle Ruiz underscores the clinic's focus on evidence-based treatments while also aspiring to remain on the "cutting edge of science." This commitment may involve treatments that traditional medical guidelines have not yet adopted, including certain supplement recommendations and off-label medication prescriptions.
Traditional medicine practitioners caution that an extensive array of tests may lead to overdiagnosis, identifying conditions such as benign tumors that are unlikely to cause harm. This can result in unnecessary costs and medical procedures. Additionally, concerns arise regarding the safety and efficacy of specific treatments offered by certain longevity clinics, particularly non-FDA-approved therapies like stem-cell rejuvenation.
Longevity clinics often market stem-cell therapies for a range of purposes, from enhancing cells' regenerative abilities to improving libido. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved a limited number of stem-cell treatments, primarily for blood and immune disorders. Risks associated with unapproved treatments include bacterial infections and tumor growth.
Sean Morrison, former president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, notes that individuals may be drawn to these products with the assumption that they won't cause harm. However, there are potential risks and costs beyond the financial aspect. Some individuals have ended up in the hospital with conditions such as sepsis due to bacterial contamination in the products they were injected with, highlighting the importance of caution in pursuing unapproved treatments.
Erin King, a 48-year-old real estate adviser in Jacksonville, Florida, delved into nontraditional medicine in his early 40s due to increased fatigue and a desire for alternatives to the statin medication recommended by his primary-care doctor. King reports experiencing improved energy levels after commencing testosterone injection treatments at Anderson Longevity Clinic, which has four locations across the United States.
Erin King also notes that a sports-related elbow strain improved after receiving prolotherapy, a treatment involving injections of a solution of sugar and saline or lidocaine. Despite not being approved by the FDA, prolotherapy is commonly used to alleviate pain in muscles or tendons.
Following positive experiences, King has chosen the clinic's founder and medical director, Dr. Brian Anderson, as his primary-care provider. Dr. Anderson mentions that some prolotherapy patients have reported improvements in conditions like tennis elbow, and other experimental treatments have been associated with helping individuals look and feel younger, as well as improving sleep.
Expressing a desire for a different approach, King states, “I feel like [regular doctors] are overworked, have too many clients and they don’t sit down and read my files. I wanted to get a different look.”
Phuong B. Le, MD