A new analysis by a Cornell researcher and a collaborator has found that the legalization of recreational marijuana reduces demand for high-priced prescription drugs through state Medicaid programs, according to Science Daily.
The authors found that when states legalize marijuana, the volume of prescriptions drugs for pain, sleep, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and seizures significantly decline.
Shyam Raman and Ashley Bradford conducted the research. Their article, titled “Recreational Cannabis Legalizations Associated with Reductions in Prescription Drug Utilizations Among Medicaid Enrollees” was published last week in the journal Health Economics.
Raman is a public health economist working on his PhD in Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University’s Brooks School of Public Policy. Bradford is a PhD student studying public policy analysis with an emphasis on health policy.
Studies have focused on the impact of medical marijuana on demand for prescription drugs or the impact of recreational use legalization on opioid demand, but this is the first study to focus on the impact of legal recreational cannabis on a wide range of prescription drugs.
Raman explained, “These results have important implications. The reductions in drug utilization that we find could lead to significant cost savings for state Medicaid programs. The results also indicate an opportunity to reduce the harm that can come with the dangerous side effects associated with some prescription drugs.”
Nearly 40 states have legalized medical marijuana, which can be prescribed by a doctor. Around 20 states have legalized personal-use cannabis for all adults and that number is likely to rise.
In those states, found a meaningful change in the demand for drugs used to treat sleep and anxiety disorders but no real impact on drugs used to treat nausea, according to Science Daily.
The authors cautioned that cannabis use is not itself without harm. They also warned that patients using medical marijuana to treat their conditions might be shifting away from seeing their PCP, thereby creating discontinuities in medical care.