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Medical Cannabis Saving USA’s Medicare System

A new study has revealed medical marijuana has been saving the USA’s Medicare program a significant amount of money.

A recently published peer-reviewed paper by Ashley Bradford and W. David Bradford of the University of Georgia looked into to the impact of medical cannabis in clinical settings.

Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013, the pair discovered the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could be a clinical alternative for fell significantly after a medical marijuana law was put into play.

The reduction in dollar terms was quite staggering.

“National overall reductions in Medicare program and enrollee spending when states implemented medical marijuana laws were estimated to be $165.2 million per year in 2013,” states an abstract of the study.

“The availability of medical marijuana has a significant effect on prescribing patterns and spending in Medicare Part D.”

Medicare Part D is the US federal government’s program that subsidises the cost of prescription drugs and related insurance premiums.

According to a related blog post on the journal Health Affairs, in seven of the nine categories examined where at least one medication had been already approved by the Food and Drug Administration for on-label use, effective medical marijuana legislation resulted in a reduction of between 265 daily doses and 1,826 daily doses of medication.

The categories included treatments for ailments such as pain, depression and nausea.

The annual number of daily doses of pain medication prescribed per physician fell by more than 11 percent.

“The results show that marijuana might be beneficial with diverting people away from opioids,” said Mr. Bradford; according to a story on Citizen Digital.

Currently, medicinal marijuana is legal in half of U.S. states. According to the study’s authors, if legalisation was nationalised, Medicare Part D spending would have declined in 2013 by approximately USD $470 million

The study, “Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Prescription Medication Use In Medicare Part D” has been published in Health Affairs.

With the cost and frequency of medication use having an increasing impact on Australia’s own Medicare and our ageing population; it’s quite likely medical cannabis could save our own Government (and taxpayers) a significant chunk of change as well. Studies like this might make more politicians sit up and take notice.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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