Medical Marijuana Laws Reduce Prescription Medication Use In Medicare Part D

Health Aff (Millwood). 2016 Jul 1;35(7):1230-6. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1661.


Legalization of medical marijuana has been one of the most controversial areas of state policy change over the past twenty years. However, little is known about whether medical marijuana is being used clinically to any significant degree. Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013, we found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented. National overall reductions in Medicare program and enrollee spending when states implemented medical marijuana laws were estimated to be $165.2 million per year in 2013. The availability of medical marijuana has a significant effect on prescribing patterns and spending in Medicare Part D.

Keywords: Medicare Part D; medical marijuana; state policy.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Approval / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Drug Prescriptions / economics
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Insurance Claim Review
  • Male
  • Medical Marijuana / economics*
  • Medical Marijuana / therapeutic use
  • Medicare Part D / economics*
  • Medicare Part D / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Medical Marijuana