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A potential boom is coming in anti-aging drugs

In Tokyo, a 24-karat anti-aging face mask. Photo: Junko Kimura/Getty Images

As the average age in developed economies rises in the coming years and decades, one of the next big economic disruptions may be in anti-aging medicines, according to a report by Citi.

Why it matters: Already, the anti-aging market is about $200 billion, and the new boom could be in drugs that slow, reverse or prevent age-related disease, Citi says. On the other hand, if people are aging more slowly, and diseases are slowed or prevented, then other drugs, treatments and surgeries, which earn billions of dollars, may not be necessary.

"Over human history, there has been an interest in slowing down aging," said Vanessa Colella, Citi's chief innovation officer and head of its venture capital unit.

The details:

  • Among the most promising drugs under development are ones that would attack "senescent cells," which Citi says are blamed for numerous age-related diseases including arthritis, retinal degeneration and Alzheimer's.
  • One study cited by Citi said the elimination of senescent cells could increase the human lifespan by about 35%.
  • One anti-senescent drug is in a clinical trial on humans with osteoarthritis in their knees, and researchers expect data in the first quarter of next year.

Colella tells Axios, "It's very early and there's lots more work needed to be done" on whether such drugs are effective.

The bottom line: If such drugs pass the clinical trials, they could not only become big sellers, but undercut standard anti-aging drugs that earn billions of dollars and eliminate the need for some knee replacement surgeries, the report says.