Opponents of marijuana, beware: A study has found that in states where marijuana is legalized, Medicare saved millions of dollars as marijuana displaced other prescription drugs as an alternative treatment.
Forbes magazine says that the study, published in the journal Health Affairs by a father-and-daughter research team, examined Medicare data for the period of 2010 to 2013 on prescription drug usage, seeking “to answer two questions: are patients choosing marijuana instead of prescription drugs for conditions that marijuana might treat, and what has been the overall effect on Medicare spending?”
In 2013, 17 states legalized marijuana. And in that year alone, Medicare was in the black by $165 million as patients, or their doctors, opted for the alternative treatment. The Forbes piece points out that, by simple extrapolation, legalization of marijuana by the rest of the states could result in even more substantial savings.
Ashley Bradford and David Bradford, researchers at the University of Georgia, checked more than 87 million Medicare Part D database prescriptions, looking only at those conditions for which marijuana might serve as an alternative treatment. Nine specific categories fill that requirement: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity.