Medical marijuana laws may decrease Medicaid costs, study finds

Medical marijuana laws may lower use of Medicaid-paid prescription drugs, suggests a study published in Health Affairs.

For the study, researchers examined the 28 states and the District of Columbia that passed some form of medical marijuana law as of December 2016. The researchers said they used quarterly data on all fee-for-service Medicaid prescriptions from 2007 to 2014 to assess how these laws may be linked to the average number of Medicaid-paid prescriptions filled. They studied nine clinical areas: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizure disorders, sleep disorders and spasticity.

In five of the clinical areas studied, Medicaid-paid prescription drug utilization was lower in states with medical marijuana laws than in states without such laws, according to the study. Researchers projected that if all states had passed a medical marijuana law in 2014, fee-for-service Medicaid could have saved a total of $1.01 billion.

"These results are similar to those in a previous study we conducted, regarding the effects of medical marijuana laws on the number of prescriptions within the Medicare population. Together, the studies suggest that in states with such laws, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries will fill fewer prescriptions," the study's authors concluded.


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