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Prescription Sales Drop in Medical Marijuana States

Jul 07, 2016 05:29PM ● By Randy Robinson
According to a new study in Health Affairswhen states legalize medical cannabis, prescription drug sales slump shortly thereafter. Looking at Medicare data from 2010 to 2013, the researchers discovered that Medicare saved $165 million each year from the reduction in pharmaceutical payouts.  

Over the course of three years, that adds up to half a billion dollars. 

"We wouldn't say that saving money is the reason to adopt this. But it should be part of the discussion," said study coauthor W. David Bradford to NPR. "We think it's pretty good indirect evidence that people are using this as medication."

Bradford is a professor of public policy at the University of Georgia. The state of Georgia allows CBD oil for severe medical conditions yet remains wary of legalizing high-THC marijuana.

Although Georgians may be barred from accessing "dank buds," the state is currently experiencing an opiate addiction crisis. In May, the 
Centers for Disease Control ranked Georgia among the top ten states with the most significant increases in opiate overdose deaths between 2013 to 2014.

Bradford compared prescription drug sales according to their use. Common conditions that qualify for medical cannabis include seizures, PTS, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and nausea. Pharmaceuticals that control those qualifying conditions saw a drop in prescriptions. Medications for conditions that don't respond to cannabis saw no change.

The Health Affairs study confirms findings from a 2014 paper that concluded states with medical marijuana experienced 25 percent fewer deaths from opiate overdoses compared to states under full prohibition.