The study included all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013.
Analysts said the findings are especially significant coming amid the nation’s opioid crisis and campaigns to reduce the prescribing of potentially addictive painkillers. Though this research is still being finalized, they found a greater drop in prescription drug payments there, Bradford said.
While this may not be news to some – like the thousands who treat their chronic pain with cannabis on a daily basis – but it is one more bit of science to confirm what patients have been saying all this time. Indeed, except for glaucoma, doctors wrote fewer prescriptions for all nine ailments after medical marijuana laws took effect, the study found.
The study includes Medicare data from 16 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont and Washington, as well as Washington D.C. By 2013, these states had operational medical marijuana programs, although some programs were active earlier. They did not see a similar decline in prescribing in states without marijuana laws. While marijuana does lower eye pressure in those with glaucoma, its effects last only about an hour.
A medical marijuana law went into effect in MA in January 2013, and researchers found that Medicare spending on the drugs included in the study declined about $13.9 million for that year in MA.
In their study, the researchers noted that although their findings showed an association between the legalization of medical marijuana and Medicare savings, their study does not prove there is a cause-and-effect relationship.
The law also allows employers to fire workers who are medical marijuana patients if they violate drug-free policies put forth by their employer.
“The results suggest people are really using marijuana as medicine and not just using it for recreational purposes”, said the study’s lead author Ashley Bradford, who completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology in May and will start her master’s degree in public administration at UGA this fall.
However, Carr said more research needs to be done on marijuana for it to serve as a true alternative to prescription drugs.
With limited research but approval by almost half the states, “we have kind of a big, poorly controlled natural experiment”, said Brendan Saloner, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Opioids are often prescribed for numerous conditions the researchers studied. “This research indicates that marijuana is populating exactly such a niche”.
“What we want in medicine is to use the right thing for the right patient at the right time – something that relieves a disease, does it more effectively than anything else, and does it with a high margin of safety”, Katz said.
“It does, however, help us think about the intended medical consequences of medical marijuana laws”, Saloner said.
In 2013 alone, the researchers estimated that Medicare saved over $165 million on prescription drugs in 17 states and the District of Columbia where medical cannabis is legally available.
The new study, published July 6 in Health Affairs, was the first to ask if there’s any evidence that medical marijuana is being used as medicine, said senior author W. David Bradford in a phone interview.
Source: Christian News Today