Medical Marijuana Trims Medicare Costs
By New Frontier Analysts
A new study by researchers at the University of Georgia indicates that, in those states where medical marijuana has been legalized, there is a reduced incidence of prescription drugs where marijuana could serve instead, and also has a significant effect on prescribing patterns and spending in Medicare Part D, which is the part of Medicare that pays for prescriptions. The study estimates that the United States could save $400 million a year in Medicare part D prescriptions if medical marijuana were legalized in every state.
However, these costs understate the other potential benefits, such as fewer opioid addictions. Physicians, on average, write 30,000 prescriptions for chronic pain every year. With medical marijuana, those prescriptions decreased by 3,600 per physician, or 12 percent less, than states without it. This study also suggests that the group that could potentially benefit most from medical marijuana, seniors, has a problem with opioids that can be jumbled into other factors. They are less likely to enter treatment than younger addicts, and also more likely to die from other causes while suffering from opioid addiction.
This, of course, means that the lucrative painkiller business might finally start to lag--but pharmaceuticals are unlikely to accept this lying down. They have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana law reform. In one instance, the HHS submitted a recommendation for naturally derived THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana to be moved from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances ACT, making it less restrictive and easier to research and prescribe. Following this, a drug company that manufactures a synthetic version of THC wrote the DEA to express opposition to rescheduling natural THC, citing its abuse potential.
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