According to new research published as a Web First in the journal Health Affairs, medical cannabis prescriptions could have saved Medicaid $1 billion on prescription drug coverage in 2014 alone.
Researchers affiliated with the Department of Public Administration and Policy at the University of Georgia found that in 2007 total Medicaid savings associated with medical cannabis laws were $260.8 million, reaching $475.8 million in 2014. The study was intended to examine whether patients are using medical cannabis in lieu of prescription drugs and looked at all Medicaid prescription data from 2007 to 2014 in states with medical cannabis laws.
“Our work adds to the literature that shows the potential clinical benefits of marijuana,” the authors state. “Since our findings also raise important questions about individual behavior and plausible safety concerns for patients who might forgo regular physician monitoring if switching from a prescription drug to marijuana, an important next step for medical marijuana law researchers will be to secure data on individual patients over time to assess these and related questions.”
Another study published in Health Affairs last July found that states with comprehensive medical cannabis programs saw an estimated $165.3 million per-year overall reduction in Medicare program and enrollee spending in 2013. In that study, researchers concluded that if cannabis therapies were available nationwide Medicare Part D saving would total about $468 million annually. Medicare Part D covers the cost of prescriptions for enrollees.
“Our findings suggest that patients and physicians in the community are reacting to the availability of medical marijuana as if it were medicine,” the authors University of Georgia study authors concluded.