Reuters Health reports that a study finding points towards cannabis oil for pain resulting in less prescription drugs for seniors. Medicare is making massive savings as a result, but still won’t cover the cost of the cannabis. It’s a combination of good and bad news. Seniors need less medicines, particularly opioid painkillers, and that’s good news. The bad news is that those who least can afford it have to pay for their own treatment.
Big savings for Medicare at the expense of the sick
Reuters says that Medicare has saved in the region of $165 million in the states that allow the use of prescription cannabis oil and estimates the total savings if medical cannabis were made available across the US at $468 million. However, it seems almost scandalous that this saving is being made at the expense of the elderly, disabled and those suffering from life-threatening diseases.
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Yes, medical cannabis really is used as a medicine – not for fun
There have always been cynics who suspect that medical cannabis oil for pain and other cannabis products are actually being used just to get high. But the study indicates that this is not the case. People really are getting relief from their herbal medicines and are using them with success as evidenced by the reduced number of prescriptions being written for other drugs. Health economist David Bradford says that his study proves people are turning away from FDA approved drugs in states with medical cannabis programs.
Prescriptions for nine ailments analysed by researchers
Researchers ran through the range of ailments for which medical cannabis can be prescribed, examining data dating from 2010 to 2013 to see if the number of prescriptions for FDA approved pharmaceuticals had been reduced in medical marijuana states. The list ranged from depression to pain and nausea, and the finding was inarguable. For all but one of the nine ailments examined, prescriptions for pharmaceuticals were significantly reduced.
This seems to indicate that cannabis is indeed effective when used to treat pain, depression, anxiety, psychosis, seizures and sleep disorders to name but a few, even though incontrovertible proof for its efficacy is still forthcoming for several of these conditions.
Prescriptions for drugs to treat chronic pain were reduced by 11%. Reuters also refers to a 2014 study that showed a reduction in painkiller overdose fatalities in states where cannabis oil for pain is a legal option.
Expert comment from the medical fraternity
An addiction psychiatrist told Reuters that he wasn’t convinced that the study results represented an improvement in the quality of care patients are receiving. He commented that medical cannabis laws were leading to medical care that is often of poor quality.
In contrast, a medical sociologist praised the study, saying that it contributed to the body of knowledge regarding the usefulness of cannabis in treating older patients. Earlier work published by this researcher, who works for the Center for Substance Abuse Studies found that many older patients preferred using cannabis to sleeping pills and regular painkillers. She notes that cannabis seems to be helpful in making it easier for the elderly to cope with the problems associated with ageing, adding that no-one ever died from using cannabis.
Which argument is right?
Are the elderly really experiencing enhanced quality of life when they use cannabis oil for pain and depression? Or are they subjecting themselves to a situation in which they get inferior care? How do you interpret the new finding?