A University of Georgia study has found that the use of medical marijuana significantly lowers the costs of Medicare’s Part D program, due to the reduced demand for prescription drugs.
The study, conducted by UGA researchers W. David and Ashley Bradford, looked at prescriptions filled by Part D participants from 2010-2013, which totaled more than 87 million observations. They then checked costs in states where medical marijuana is legal and narrowed the search to nine conditions for which marijuana can treat, including anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity.
The results showed that if every U.S. state were to legalize cannabis, $468 million would be saved in Part D costs. That’s a $303 million increase over the money that was saved in the 18 states where medical marijuana was legal in 2013.
“When marijuana becomes a medical option for people, then their use of prescription drugs falls,” said David Bradford, one of the authors of the study. “We think that the only plausible mechanism is that people are shifting at least in part toward using marijuana as medicine.”
Of the categories studied, it was found that annual prescriptions decreased by 3,645 doses per doctor for pain and by 1,280 doses for depression. This is particularly noteworthy, considering the enormous increase of opioid use for chronic pain