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Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Linked To Less Prescription Drug Use, Medicare Spending

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 12, 2016

    substitutionThe enactment of statewide medicinal cannabis laws is associated with a quantifiable decline in the use of traditional prescription drugs, according to data published in the July edition of the scientific journal Health Affairs.

    Investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians’ prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period (2010 to 2013). Specifically, researchers assessed patients’ consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity.

    Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed.

    “Generally, we found that when a medical marijuana law went into effect, prescribing for FDA-approved prescription drugs under Medicare Part D fell substantially,” investigators reported. “Ultimately, we estimated that nationally the Medicare program and its enrollers spent around $165.2 million less in 2013 as a result of changed prescribing behaviors induced by … jurisdictions that had legalized medical marijuana.”
    Investigators estimated that prescription drug savings would total more than $468 million annually were cannabis therapy to be accessible in all 50 states.

    They concluded, “Our findings and existing clinical literature imply that patients respond to medical marijuana legislation as if there are clinical benefits to the drug, which adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the Schedule I status of marijuana is outdated.”

    An abstract of the study, “Medical marijuana laws reduce prescription medication use in Medicare Part D,” is available online here.

    15 Responses to “Study: Medical Marijuana Laws Linked To Less Prescription Drug Use, Medicare Spending”

    1. Fireweed says:

      Is there ANYTHING this wonder “drug” can’t do? Compelling evidence for legalization nationwide. Although it doesn’t bode well for the pharmaceutical industry.

      • Mark Mitcham says:

        The significant thing that marijuana can’t do is to legalize itself — we must do that!

        And we are. I’m still pinching myself (Ouch! I’m awake!) Thankfully, America finally is coming out of it’s “reefer madness” psychosis.

      • Cat Cassie says:

        No, I don’t think there is.

    2. lockedoutoftheshed says:

      this is good news…cept…WE have known about this for many , many moons but, they would not listen to us. they kept their head in the friggen sand as long as possible until they could not do it any longer.it seems to have been a big stall, maybe so they (government) could find a corner for control on every facet of the remedy. i am glad it is (finally) coming somewhat to light but it has been too late for many, many folks who have really needed its benefits. damm the friggen government for this selfish act on its people!!! damm those responsible for dragging this out……

      • Bill says:

        The pharmaceutical companies will be greatly damaged by this. Pharma is all about money and demand, not getting people well. Obamacare had to leave pharma alone to get its cooperation.

    3. Mark I. says:

      This news will quantify the corporate responses to continue prohibition. With the population rising and the number of petrol-chemical based medications profits languishing due to unpopular side effects, cannabis safety efficacy will prevail?

      • Don M says:

        One of the really special things about using cannabis as a medicine is that it has a pleasant side effect! At least that is what almost everyone who has actually inhaled thinks about it :)

    4. Miles says:

      Big Pharma hates it when cannabis can replace 20 of the concoctions they mix up in their labs. I’ve seen plenty of evidence that a lot of people with various conditions replace piles of legal pills with cannabis. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why they don’t want cannabis to ever be legal… $$$

      Don’t misunderstand, it’s not really they cannabis they have a problem with, it’s the dollars. I’m sure if they could patent cannabis they would not hesitate to promote it like the wonder drug that it is.

      • mexweed says:

        Good point about Big pHARMa as far as it goes. You could add that cannabis has potential to PREVENT pharma profits by PREVENTING people– yes, particularly youngsters– getting hooked on nicotine $igarettes! 2014 Surgeon General Report: $289-bil./year “tobacco” (mainly $igarettes) cost to US economy, of which $135-bil. “medical care”– duh?

    5. Just An Observer says:

      Fiscal conservatives applaud. Social conservatives, not so much. *sigh*

      • Tsubasa says:

        Yup. It never ceases to amaze me how much of my money too many people want to blow through in pursuit of failed policies. The drug war is at the nexus of a preponderance of things I would list as failed policies, and I would say that it all tends to come down to Right-Wing Authoritarianism (see Altemeyer’s /The Authoritarians/: speaking to psychology here, politics is next paragraph). Was raised in an RWA household. Suffice to say I become more liberal the older I get. I have no idea how any thinking person could possibly be an RWA. It should be a diagnosable mental illness. There are people I agree to disagree with, but RWAs are immune to facts and guided by the reptile part of their brains.

        This is the first election I’m having a very difficult time voting my principles instead of voting strategically. Full legalization has always been something that people of my political persuasion support. Now that a major party officially endorses a road to that goal, even if they didn’t pick the guy I voted for in the primary—and looking at the joker the other team picked—by golly it might just be time to vote strategically.

        This is a huge victory even if November isn’t here yet.

        • Tsubasa says:

          D’oh. Bad form to reply to myself, but half of that comment should have gone in my other tab under the story about the Democrat platform!

          See, this is what drinking alcohol to deal with depression instead of using cannabis flower does to you! I haven’t even had a drink yet this evening! Just my mind slowly going as the alcohol rots it….

    6. Matthew Monsoor says:

      The problem is that the medical marijuana is not covered by any health plan or part D so we don’t know how much is spent on medical marijuana! Besides legal medical marijuana is heavily taxed by local and state governments, besides costing about 200% more today compared to what illegal marijuana costed 50 years ago.

    7. mark L says:

      I want everybody to know i just got my 1st order of hemp oil cbd the 1st day i used it it works great it took away my major pain in my back better than the hydrocodone ..its time for people to wake up ..big pharma can stick all there side affects and money up there ass ..we need to vote out all the people in government that don,t support legalization our government is controlled by money and not the people Its time for us to take back our country… we the people are paying there pay checks god bless this mess?????

    8. Julian says:

      Excellent work Paul. While Big Pharma shoots for quasi-prohibition under schedule II with smokeless “legalization” without homegrow (which is still prohibition with decriminalization), we need studies like these to educate our Congressman and vote in those who respect the reality that whole plant cannabis is good and healthy for us and has never killed anyone ever while patented pharmaceuticals are killing us. Peer based reviewed science is the cure for prohibition.

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