Medical Marijuana States see drop in Drug Prescriptions & Medicare Spending: Study

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on July 26, 2016.

A recent study found that states in the USA that legalized medical marijuana saw declines in the number of Medicare prescriptions for drugs used to treat various medical conditions and a dip in spending by Medicare Part D, which covers the cost on prescription medications.

Researchers at the University of Georgia found that the District of Columbia and the states with a medical marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for chronic pain, anxiety, glaucoma, nausea, , psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders or depression dropped significantly compared to states that did not legalize medical marijuana. 

These medical marijuana approved states also had a significant effect on Medicare spending. According to the study, Medicare saved approximately $165.2 million in 2013 because of lower prescription drug use. W. David Bradford, a health economist and co-author of the study, says that about $52 million of the $165.2 million in Medicare savings came from California in 2013

The declines they discovered in prescription-use were significant. The study says in medical marijuana-approved states, the average doctor prescribed fewer doses of antidepressants, seizure and anti-nausea medication. They also found that doctors prescribed fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication — and a particularly notable reduction of painkillers prescriptions too.

The researchers estimated that, if medical marijuana were available nationwide, Medicare Part D spending would have declined in the same year by about $470 million.

Since the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, doctors can't technically prescribe it. In states that have legalized medical marijuana, they can only write patients a note sending them to a dispensary.

It is to be noted that decreasing Americans’ use of prescription drugs may not just be of monetary benefit, but depending on the type of drug, could help fight their addiction to prescription painkillers as well.

In the USA, as many as 25 states and Washington, D.C., have some form of legalized medical marijuana.

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