American taxpayers are spending $36 million a year on penis pumps to treat erectile dysfunction for Medicare patients -- and the amount is rising rapidly.
Since 2000, the cost of the 'medical devices' has grown 500 percent as more and more older men are looking to the government to subsidize their treatment of erectile dysfunction.
After a political uproar that led to the ED drug Viagra no longer being covered by Medicare, doctors began prescribing 'male vacuum erection systems' to patients -- at an average cost of $338 each.
Growth industry: Penis pump prescriptions have soared five times since 2000 as more men seek relief from erectile dysfunction
However, the federal government has also begun uncovering massive fraud in the area of penis pumps, as well.
Last year, Medicare officials challenged more than $8 million in billings for the devices as unnecessary or fraudulent, Scripps Howard News Service reports.
Investigators have uncovered several major instances of the devices being illegally billed to the government and arrested several people in multimillion-dollar conspiracies.
The pumps have skyrocketed in popularity since 2007, when Medicare ruled that Viagra, and similar drugs for erectile dysfunction, were 'lifestyle' drugs and not medically necessary.
Since then, the government healthcare program has stopped covering the medications.
As a result, some doctors are prescribing the costly pumps -- which were found to be effective in clinical studies in the 1980s.
Erectile dysfunction affects primarily older men. As the Baby Boomers age, more Americans are beginning to experience the symptoms.
'When the pills first came out, they were very popular, but they are not reimbursed by most insurance or Medicare and they don't work for everyone,' Ed Stewart, CEO of penis pump maker Post-T-Vac, told Scripps Howard.
'The fact is that the baby boomers are moving into the high-risk part of their lives for ED and they're looking for options to maintain their sex lives.'
In 2000, the government spent about $7.2 million on pumps -- about 21,000 units.
Last year, Medicare paid out $36 million -- more than 160,000 vacuum devices.
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