The 28 states that allow for the use of medical marijuana have seen a reduction in thenumber of prescriptions for Medicaid enrollees -- and it could verywell be because of those laws, according to academic researchpublished in the May issue of Health Affairs.

|

Ashley C. Bradford and W. David Bradford, a student and aprofessor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy atthe University of Georgia, investigated the association betweenmedical marijuana laws and prescription drug spending infee-for-service Medicaid programs of all 50 states and theDistrict of Columbia for the years 2007 through 2014.

|

The researchers used state drug utilization data to measureprescription spend for FDA-approved drugs used to treat clinicalconditions for which marijuana might be a potential alternativetreatment: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain,psychosis, seizure disorders, sleep disorders and spasticity.

|

In simple bivariate comparisons, the two found that states withmedical marijuana laws had fewer doses of each drug dispensed perenrollee in state fee-for-service Medicaid programs, ranging fromaround a 42 percent reduction for prescriptions used to treatnausea, to a 15 percent reduction for spasticity.

|

However, when accounting for additional factors that theresearchers believe could more accurately measure prescriptionspend, the researchers found a 13 percent reduction for drugs usedto treat depression, a 17 percent reduction for those used to treatnausea, 12 percent reductions for those used to treat psychosis andthose used to treat seizure disorders, and an 11 percent reductionfor drugs used to treat pain.

|

The researchers found no significant associations between havinga medical marijuana law and dispensed units ofFDA-approved drugs for anxiety, glaucoma, sleep disorders, orspasticity.

|

The additional factors used in the multivariate analysis werewhether the state had a prescription drug monitoring program ineffect; the number of active nonfederal physicians per capita;median household income; the percentage of state residents withhousehold incomes below the federal poverty level; the averageannual unemployment rate; the state population; whether the statehad legalized recreational marijuana; whether the state hadexpanded eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act;and state and year indicator variables, to allow for fixed effectsanalysis by state and year.

|

The researchers also found that the states with medicalmarijuana laws collectively had estimated Medicaid savings thatranged from $260.8 million in 2007 to $475.8 million in 2014.

|

“If all states had had a medical marijuana law in place in 2014,the national savings for fee-for-service Medicaid would have beenapproximately $1.01 billion,” the two wrote.

|

They cited the reason for their research was to add to theliterature that shows the potential clinical benefits of marijuana,as currently the federal Drug Enforcement Administration classifiesmarijuana as a Schedule I drug.

|

One of the criteria for such a classification spelled out in theControlled Substances Act of 1970, was that the drug has no“currently accepted medical use[s].”

|

“Our findings that actual prescription drug use in Medicaidvaries in ways consistent with marijuana’s being a substituteproduct provides additional, albeit indirect, evidence of medicaluse,” the researchers wrote.

|

They added a not-so-subtle lobby for the reclassification ofmarijuana: “In times of significant budget pressure, the possiblesavings of $1.01 billion nationally in spending on prescriptions infee-for service Medicaid is significant.”

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to BenefitsPRO, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical BenefitsPRO information including cutting edge post-reform success strategies, access to educational webcasts and videos, resources from industry leaders, and informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM, BenefitsPRO magazine and BenefitsPRO.com events
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including ThinkAdvisor.com and Law.com
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.