The Life Extension Advocacy Foundation is in the process of reworking their online presence and adding a lot more content. One of the new items is this discussion of the likely trajectory of cost for near future therapies that slow aging or produce rejuvenation, such as the panoply of SENS therapies presently under development. There is a tendency for people to assume, without giving it much thought, that rejuvenation therapies will always be enormously expensive and thus restricted to the wealthy, but this is basically nonsense. Once proven and packaged as a product, the projected types of therapy will be mass manufactured infusions and injections, the same for everyone. They will be administered by bored clinicians, needing little in the way of time from expensive medical staff, and only undertaken once every few years or so. If you look at comparable technologies today, even given the way in which a dysfunctional and highly regulated medical industry piles on unnecessary costs, this class of medicine is not expensive once it gets to the point of widespread availability and standardized manufacture in bulk. Further, consider that this is the case is when the number of patients, while large, is only a tiny fraction of the overall population. When the target market is instead everyone over the age of 40, enormous economies of scale will come into play.
The concern that rejuvenation biotechnologies might cause social disparity and further widen the gap between rich and poor is one of the most commonly raised ones, probably second only to concerns of overpopulation. Like many others, this concern may appear valid at first, but it does not survive careful analysis. The underlying assumption of the argument we are discussing is that rejuvenation therapies would be so very expensive that only rich people would be able to afford them, thus fracturing the world into the ever-young, ever-healthy rich ones, and the poor, sick, old ones with no access to these technologies. It is very likely that rejuvenation therapies will be quite expensive initially due to a number of factors. However, even if we can initially assume a high cost for rejuvenation biotechnologies, we need to keep in mind that new technologies generally start off as very expensive and eventually become affordable and widespread.
For instance, it took only 15 years for full genome sequencing cost to drop from $100 million to $300, making personalised medicine a reality globally. In the field of medicine, there are several other examples of this same trend of falling cost and prices. The drug metformin, used for the treatment of type 2 diabetes (and probably the first drug to slow down aging in healthy people, which is currently the subject of the TAME clinical trial), was initially expensive but eventually its price plummeted to a few dollars. Its price fell from $1.24 per tablet in 2002 to 31 cents in 2013. Similarly, improvements in technology have drastically reduced the costs of research diagnostics, and the advent of remote technology has allowed a cost reduction for both patients and hospitals as specialists can be contacted at a distance. As an example, this means hospitals do not need to have radiologists in location all the time, but can instead remotely send them patient data for analysis and thus only pay for each individual service; this, in turn, implies potentially cheaper services for the patients as well.
Technology typically becomes much cheaper as time goes by; there is no reason to believe the same would not be true of rejuvenation technologies, especially when one takes into account an extremely strong economic motivator: The market for rejuvenation biotechnologies would be the largest in history. Every single person in the world has aging and is thus a potential customer. It is of course very likely that those with wealth and therefore greater means will obtain cutting edge technology first (as we have seen repeatedly historically) before everyone else. However, one should consider that those early adopters are playing "guinea pig" and in effect are paving the way for the masses and helping developers offset the costs incurred during the development process due to paying premium prices for early access to these technologies.
If, for the sake of the argument, we assumed that rejuvenation biotechnologies could somehow be an exception to the trend of falling prices in technology, we would need to decide whether people ending up paying for their own rejuvenation therapies is more a realistic scenario than governments subsidizing the treatments, partly or wholly. The majority of countries in the world have universal healthcare systems that take care of their citizens or residents health needs either for free or for a nominal fee. These costs are offset by taxes which ensure the health service is able to provide this level of care to all. Presently, health expenditures for the elderly constitute a considerable burden on a country's economy. Although the elderly have already contributed wealth to society when they were younger, they often stop doing so when they retire. The desired result of rejuvenation therapies leads to a much better scenario. If rejuvenation therapies are reapplied with proper timing, no individual would ever reach a state of age-related decay and poor health that could make him or her unfit for work. Consequently, the costs of treating age-related diseases using current medicine could be reduced with the arrival of more robust therapies offered by rejuvenation biotechnology. Such rejuvenation therapies aim to prevent a plethora of diseases before they manifest, potentially saving money. However, even if the costs are the same and we are simply trading one set of medicines for another, the benefit to health, quality of life and productivity makes it more than worth it regardless.