Seniors with Access to Medical Marijuana Use Fewer Prescription Drugs
Physicians wrote significantly fewer prescriptions for painkillers and other medications for elderly and disabled patients who had legal access to medical marijuana, a new study finds.
In fact, Medicare saved more than $165 million in 2013 on prescription drugs in the District of Columbia and 17 states that allowed cannabis to be used as medicine, researchers calculated. If every state in the nation legalized medical marijuana, the study forecast that the federal program would save more than $468 million a year on pharmaceuticals for disabled Americans and those 65 and older. No health insurance, including Medicare, will reimburse for the cost of marijuana. Although medical cannabis is legal today in 25 states and the District of Columbia, federal law continues to prohibit its prescription in all circumstances. 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. The answer is yes, said Bradford, a health economist and a professor at the University of Georgia in Athens. The researchers expected to see fewer prescriptions for FDA-approved drugs that might treat the same conditions as cannabis. Indeed, except for glaucoma, doctors wrote fewer prescriptions for all nine ailments after medical marijuana laws took effect, the study found. The number of Medicare prescriptions significantly dropped for drugs that treat pain, depression, anxiety, nausea, psychoses, seizures, and sleep disorders.
David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.