Medical marijuana is proving to be the solution for States that are trying to reduce their Medicare spending.
17 States such as the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana and have been selling it as an alternative to prescription drugs since 2013 have reported cost savings of over $165 million that would have been used in their Medicare programs had medical marijuana not been an option. The report was published in the Journal of Health Affairs and the study was carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Georgia led by Dr. David Bradford.
Their report went on to show that if medical marijuana was made available to the entire country then the Medicare program would have saved close to $500 million.
The data for this study was taken from the 2010-2013 records for prescriptions that were filled out under the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan. The data was filtered according to prescriptions for glaucoma, depression, seizures, sleep disorders, pain and nausea which could have been replaced by medical marijuana.
An in-depth analysis of these records showed that after medical marijuana was legalized there was a marked decrease in the number of prescriptions that were filled out for these ailments. Pain prescriptions decreased by 1826 daily doses and the daily dosages for depression prescriptions went down by 265.
Glaucoma was the main focus of the study run by Dr. David Bradford and was the only category where they found that demand for daily doses increased despite the availability of medical marijuana. They also found that pain is one of the most Googled search terms in relation to marijuana along with glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disorder that causes high intraocular pressure within the eye which results in discomfort and can even lead to blindness.
The use of marijuana helps to reduce this pressure however the benefits only last for about an hour. Expecting glaucoma patients to take doses of marijuana every hour is considered to be unrealistic therefore marijuana is not expected to completely replace the use of prescription drugs in the treatment of glaucoma however it can help to reduce the demand for prescription drugs because marijuana can be used in conjunction with prescription drugs with no fear of harmful side effects. Ashley Bradford, the study’s lead author, says that these results show that users of medical marijuana were genuine in their search for alleviation from their discomfort and were not simply chasing a high.
Dr. David Bradford, speaking in a YouTube interview, hopes that his team’s research will have an impact on future policy-making. The evidence that users of medical marijuana really do want to use it for the treatment of their ailments could convince the remaining States across the US that they have nothing to worry about when it comes to adopting medical marijuana into their health plans.
Medical Marijuana and The Reduction of Opiate Related Overdoses
The reduction in how American’s use prescription drugs may not only help with budget planning but could also reduce the number of American’s that are addicted to prescription pain killers. At present, the American public is in the midst of an opiate epidemic. As reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, opiates killed more than 28,000 people in 2014 alone, the highest number of opiate-related deaths on record for a single year. More than half of those deaths were directly related to prescription opiates.
The CDC goes on to state that overdoses from prescription opiate painkillers has been a key factor in the steady increase in opiate related deaths over the last fifteen years. The number of prescription opiates sold in the US is now four times higher than what it was in 1999 however American’s have not reported an increase in the levels of pain that they feel.
The three most common prescription opiate drugs that are involved in overdose deaths are methadone, hydrocodone and oxycodone. To date, 26 States across the US have some form of medical marijuana that is legally available to patients. Dr. Bradford’s hope is that its gaining popularity in pain-related treatment will help to reduce the number of yearly opiate deaths because marijuana does not have any risk of overdose attached to it.
In the States where medical marijuana has been legalized, opiate related overdoses have decreased by close to 25 percent.