A study from the University of Georgia reveals medical marijuana could cut $1 billion from Medicaid’s annual prescription budget.
David Bradford and master’s candidate Ashley Bradford collected data from states who already have medical marijuana and are using it to treat specific conditions. From that, they extrapolated the annual savings as if all Medicaid recipients had access to medical marijuana. They also compared the amount of money spent on prescriptions drugs in states with legal medical marijuana to states without it, and the difference showed, “statistically and economically meaningful reductions in prescription drug use,” according to the study.
In these states, there was an 11 percent decrease in prescription pain medication, a 12 percent decrease for prescriptions that treat psychosis, and a 17 percent reduction in spending on medication that treats nausea.
These figures “suggest that patients and physicians in the community are reacting to the availability of medical marijuana as if it were medicine,” rather than using medical cannabis simply to get high. The authors of the study also mentioned that their work, “adds to the literature that shows the potential clinical benefits of marijuana.”
This is in line with a recent Quinnipac poll that indicates 93 percent of Americans support medical marijuana use when prescribed by a physician. Americans are turning to medical marijuana to treat chronic pain and other conditions, and many of them are senior citizens. They represent a group that is increasingly showing interest in medical marijuana to treat pain, but are less likely to support legalization. Because these patients often have several conditions that require multiple prescription drugs to treat, seniors are most at risk for drug overdose.
“Opioids were designed for acute pain, not chronic pain,”
said Dr. Joseph Garbely, medical director of Caron Treatment Centers in Pennsylvania.
“When we apply acute treatment strategies to chronic pain, that’s when we get into trouble. Over time, there’s a tolerance that occurs, so you need more and more for the required analgesic effect. Over time, you’re getting into larger and larger doses of opioids. So there has to be a different strategy.”
But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has previously stated that he believes the benefits of medical marijuana, “have been hyped, maybe too much.” Senator Elizabeth Warren challenged the CDC in a letter last year to look into treating opioid addiction with medical marijuana. Since then, the goal of treating opioid addiction has become wrapped up in a partisan political fight to reform healthcare in the United States.