07.13.2016
policy

One Simple Chart Shows Why Big Pharma Wants Medical Pot to Go Away

The medical industrial complex has issues with what's healthy.

Nobody is saying that marijuana is a cure-all substance that could stand America’s medical-industrial complex on its head and reinvent the way wellness is pursued and achieved in this country. Well, okay, some people are saying precisely that, but usually no one pays any attention to them other than the person sitting to the left patiently waiting for the joint to pass.

But Ashley and W. David Bradford, a daughter-father research team at the University of Georgia, are saying something hinting very closely at the possibility of medical cannabis drastically altering the way America’s health-care industry does business and pursues treatments. People, such as editors at major media outlets, are listening.

For their study, the Bradfords dove into a database of all prescription drugs paid for under Medicare Part D from 2010 to 2013. What that means, is the Bradfords went wading through the medication habits of lots and lots of old people.

Who, in good faith, could object to carving those excessive costs off of our artificially fattened health system expenses? 

“When states turned on medical marijuana laws,” David Bradford told Scientific American, “we did see a rather substantial turn away from FDA-approved medicine.”

At last count by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, basically two million Americans are in the thrall of FDA-approved prescription opioids. In 2014 alone, these prescription painkillers caused 18,893 overdose deaths. Is a meaningful turn away from FDA-approved death-delivery devices really as simple as switching on medical marijuana laws?

From the Washington Post:

The [researchers] found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law. The drops were quite significant: In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.
But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.

The benefit of all these doses not being prescribed has widely been reported as reduced costs. The University of Georgia researchers calculate that Medicare paid out $165 million less for prescriptions in states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Extending that $165 million, the Washington Post figured that if all 50 states ratified legal weed, Medicare’s prescription drug savings would be in the vicinity of half a billion dollars. Add to that the savings on prescription medications not used by cannabis-treated people under age 65, and you come up with a very healthy number.

Who, in good faith, could object to carving those excessive costs off of our artificially fattened health-system expenses? Well, obviously, the people who would have pocketed that money otherwise.

The Washington Post points out a standing assumption that, when given the option, many pain patients will choose cannabis over potentially lethal narcotics. The Bradshaws’ findings, says the paper, validate that assumption. Independently, a Canadian survey of 473 adult medical cannabis users found that "80 percent of respondents gave up prescription medications."

It seems that Big Pharma has had a strong hunch all along about the benefits of cannabis treatment—such as providing greater patient satisfaction in safer dosages—over the use of pharmaceutical products. A perhaps intuitive awareness of the inherent drawbacks in its highly addictive, quite lethal, and immensely profitable painkilling products is why, cynics and realists conclude, the pharmaceutical conglomerates have been so rabid and effective in stalling the normalization of marijuana laws.

Again from the Washington Post:

These companies have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization.
Pharmaceutical companies have also lobbied federal agencies directly to prevent the liberalization of marijuana laws.

Big Pharma's bottom line profits greatly from substances that create physical and psychological dependencies that far outlast many conditions that patients are being treated for.

Unfortunately, it’s not self evident that monetary considerations shouldn’t be the highest priority when determining medication policy. It's a radical notion that what’s best for the ongoing wellbeing of the general populace ought to be of prime importance. The states of Maine and Oregon both recently denied petitions to list addiction as a qualifying condition for medical weed. In Maine, officials cited a lack of scientific research.

But researcher David Bradford tells Scientific American, “The results show that marijuana might be beneficial with diverting people away from opioids."

The medical marijuana industry very well may be in a position to save America money and to save American lives. Let’s give it a chance to do both.

Thanks to 420 Magazine for sniffing out this story.

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