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New Study Has Big Pharma Terrified — As Pot is Legalized, Pill Sales Plummet

For decades the pharmaceutical industry has poured millions into the pockets of corrupt politicians as they lobbied to keep cannabis illegal. A new study from the University of Georgia shows exactly why all that money was spent. Legal marijuana destroys big pharma’s profits.

The study examined the costs of Medicare’s prescription drug benefit program in 2013, a year when only 17 states and the District of Columbia had legalized medicinal marijuana. They found that legal pot contributed to a savings of $165.2 million in prescription costs. Researchers at the University of Georgia used those number to determine a savings in the hundreds of millions if all states would legalize medical cannabis.

According to the study, compared to Medicare Part D’s 2013 budget of $103 billion, those savings would have been 0.5 percent. But it’s enough of a difference to show that, in states where medicinal marijuana is legal, some people are turning to the drug as an alternative to prescription medications for ailments that range from pain to sleep disorders.

“The results suggest people are really using marijuana as medicine and not just using it for recreational purposes,” said the study’s lead author Ashley Bradford, who completed her bachelor’s degree in sociology in May and will start her master’s degree in public administration at UGA this fall.

The estimated savings are likely far higher as the study narrowed down the results to only include conditions for which marijuana might serve as an alternative treatment, selecting nine categories in which the Food and Drug Administration had already approved at least one medication. These were anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity.

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The study also brought up the lack of availability in states with legal medical pot. Patients, according to the study, can’t walk up to their neighborhood pharmacy to pick up a marijuana prescription; they have to either go to a dispensary or grow it themselves—and the legality of having marijuana plants differs by state.

If marijuana was as readily available as say, Prozak, one could imagine the damage it would do to Big Pharma.

The University of Georgia’s study is unique in that it looked at Medicare expenditures. However, another survey conducted by the Centre for Addictions Research of BC also helps explain why Big Pharma is so afraid of cannabis.

The survey of 473 adult therapeutic cannabis users found that 87% of respondents gave up prescription medications, alcohol, or other drugs in favor of cannabis. Adults under 40 were likely to give up all three of these for medical cannabis.

The most startling revelation, and one that will have Big Pharma running to their crony lawmakers, is that 80% of respondents reported substituting cannabis for prescription drugs.

In addition, 52% said they substituted cannabis for alcohol and 32% said they substituted it for illicit substances. These results indicate a very promising trend of people moving away from dangerously addictive and deadly substances in favor of a miracle plant that has never caused an overdose death.

“The finding that cannabis was substituted for all three classes of substances suggests that the medical use of cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the context of use of these substances, and may have implications for abstinence-based substance use treatment approaches. Further research should seek to differentiate between biomedical substitution for prescription pharmaceuticals and psychoactive drug substitution, and to elucidate the mechanisms behind both.”

As The Free Thought Project has reported before, the U.S. is in the midst of a painkiller epidemic, with overdose deaths skyrocketing as Big Pharma has secured its grip on government and mainstream medicine. Opioid painkillers and heroin have driven overdose deaths to the point where they are now the leading cause of fatal injuries in the U.S. Alcohol is also killing Americans at a rate not seen in 35 years.

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The results of this survey confirm that cannabis is the answer to all of these problems.

We are just beginning to confirm the benefits of cannabis on other conditions such as anxiety which is normally treated with pills such as Xanax, insomnia which is normally treated with pills such as Ambien, and antidepressants which are treated with pills such as Zoloft. All of these prescription drugs can cause debilitating addiction or severe side-effects.

Although the war on drugs put a stop to medical cannabis research for decades, in recent years we have seen a surge in studies being performed, as prohibition crumbles and the Schedule 1 classification of “no medical benefit” is exposed as a farce.

  • Viride Faenum

    Legalizing sounds like a win win. The public gets a choice, better stuff through competition, and less poison from big pharma. Healthier and happier all around. Never mind the reduction in police corruption by ending the war on drugs not made by big pharma. Vote for legalization in a state near you.

    The reality is the anything including pot will have it’s limits, and there is room for big pharma if they would only stop chasing the buck and make medicine. instead of palliatives and ad campaigns.

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    • Resist_Tyranny

      Decriminalization. Get the government OUT OF THE WAY!

    • Definitely a win-win situation for everyone. Pharma industries could use it to really provide helpful “medicine”, instead they are just afraid of making less profit. Understandable but not smart. Adapt and help, that’s what should be done. #legalizeit

      • Jo ::

        I’d rather not go to CVS to get my pot, thank you!

  • Big Horn Staredown

    Always disgusting to see people be kidnapped by the law because they want to give themselves or families alternative medical needs such as cannabis oil. A lot of us say the war on drugs is a failure, but if youre a little bit into theories, its exactly what certain groups want.

  • Roger Wilco

    Legalising the sale of a plant makes sense, since criminalising a plant makes none. Also the whole point of criminalising cannabis was to incarcerate black americans and thereby deny them their vote, in an effort to win an election for Richard Nixon (look it up!) However restricting access to opioids far more might also be a good idea. It seems like anyone can get fentanyl these days which is 50 TIMES more powerful than heroin.

  • David Lawson

    You do realise that if Marajhuana is legalised ‘Big Pharma’ will simply jump on board and start producing it themselves. They’re not actually that worried about it otherwise.

    • Grant Larson

      You don’t really understand how patent law or seeds work, do you?

      • David Lawson

        Feel free to enlighten me Grant. You don’t think ‘Big Pharma’ has already bought patents? Or would just buy out a company and their patents. And there’s still cannabis oil to distill into pills, save having to smoke it. I don’t think you realise how much ‘Big Pharma’ don’t care about this study.

        • Grant Larson

          Well, first off, they’re not gonna get a patent on cannabis, and two, anybody with soil can grow it. Trying to corner the market on that is gonna be significantly harder than doing it for pharmaceuticals that they can develop in their R&D departments and then patent.

          So, yeah. Big Pharma is really fucking worried about cannabis. They’re perhaps the people most worried about cannabis.

          • David Lawson

            Have you then considered that if it was leagalised:
            1. Most people don’t want to/have the time to grow Weed
            2. They’ll want it from a reputable source that will guarantee the quality and consistency of the product
            3. That it will need to be mass produced to a level that most backyard growers won’t be able to sustain
            Again, if it’s legalised, ‘Big Pharma’ are poised to take advantage, they’re not keeping their heads in the sand about this.

          • Grant Larson

            1) Some will when they realize how much cheaper it is to do it that way, especially when it’s really not that hard to do.
            2) Lol, you think a majority of people will trust the pharmaceutical industry/not trust something they grow themselves? It’s like you don’t know anybody who has ever been exposed to weed.
            3) Of course it will be, but the existence of SOME backyard growers is still a loss for Big Pharma.

            Of course, some people won’t want to grow it themselves, as you said. However, pharmaceutical companies still can’t patent it and thus can’t create monopolies on medicine treating things that marijuana treats, and they must now compete with local growers in the marketplace just like the members of every other industry. They’re forced to sell at a much lower price to those who won’t grow, and they lose out entirely on sales to those who choose to grow themselves and those who buy from local growers. That’s HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of profits lost.

            I don’t know why you insist that this isn’t a loss for Big Pharma when it obviously is, but you’re deluding yourself, and they are shitting their pants over this.

          • David Lawson

            Lol, you think a majority of people will trust the pharmaceutical
            industry/not trust something they grow themselves? It’s like you don’t
            know anybody who has ever been exposed to weed.

            Ah yeah, most will trust a Pharmaceutical company. Hence why they’ve made as much money as they have.

          • Grant Larson

            They “trust” pharmaceutical companies because pharmaceutical companies patent the drugs that treat the medicines that treat their illnesses. They don’t have a choice.

          • Brittany

            Most of us who smoke marijuana for our medical issues are fed up with the pharmaceutical companies. I wouldn’t touch ANY marijuana related product they produced and I know most people feel the same. Grant is 100% right here.

          • David Lawson

            Except most people don’t feel the same way, otherwise everyone would have been smoking Marijuana by now and would have stopped taking drugs manufactured by Pharmaceuticals years ago. And it will be the same if it’s leagalised, most people will then take something that has FDA and AMA approval. This article is not new news to Pharmaceuticals, and considering their profits are in the billions, it’s not going to impact their financials significantly.
            That’s all I’m saying, is despite the numbers given in this article, in context to Pharmaceutical industry profits and money generated, it’s business as usual for Pharmaceuticals, it’s not going to be their end. And once leaglised, they’ll be poised to profit from the medicinal marijuana market.

          • Grant Larson

            “Except most people don’t feel the same way, otherwise everyone would have been smoking Marijuana by now and would have stopped taking drugs manufactured by Pharmaceuticals years ago.”

            No, they wouldn’t. Some people are concerned about legality but would use it if it were legalized.

            “And it will be the same if it’s leagalised, most people will then take something that has FDA and AMA approval.”

            True, but not really relevant.

            “This article is not new news to Pharmaceuticals, and considering their profits are in the billions, it’s not going to impact their financials significantly.”

            This is just straight-up delusion. We’ve already talked about how this would prevent them from price-gouging for medicines for the issues marijuana treats, and lose some sales altogether to local growers and their customers. We could even see the rise of large-scale growers that aren’t tied to pharmaceuticals but sell their product nationally. I’m seriously baffled as to how you think Big Pharma comes out ahead in a legalization scenario.

            “That’s all I’m saying, is despite the numbers given in this article, in context to Pharmaceutical industry profits and money generated, it’s business as usual for Pharmaceuticals,”

            No, it’s not. They would not be able to use their usual business model in a marijuana market, and would need to acquire large tracts of arable land, dealing with real estate prices and property taxes, in order to compete in that market.

            “it’s not going to be their end.”

            Nobody said it would be.

            “And once leaglised, they’ll be poised to profit from the medicinal marijuana market.”

            Yes, they will, but they won’t be able to use their normal, very monopolistic business model and will not profit nearly as much as a result. It’s STILL a MASSIVE loss over what they are currently making for drugs that treat the same things, and that is STILL something they want to avoid.

          • David Lawson

            FDA and AMA approval is extremely relevant and is the other reason, as well as it being illegal and the stigma some people associate with it, as to why more people aren’t using it.
            Despite medicinal marijuana being legal is select states in the USA, there’s none of the reliable safety data, toxic dose data, side effect data against it. If you’re given a drug, any drug, and told side effects are unknown, efficacy is unknown, safety is unknown, not sure if it’ll kill you, how confident are you in taking that drug? If you’ve got nothing to lose, sure. But as the first response to an illness, when there’s a ready available option with up to date side effect and safety data?
            That’s what FDA and AMA approval brings, and why, until it is legalised, it won’t canibalise Pharmaceutical profits any significant amount. Based on the combined 33 Billion a year estimated Pharmaceutical companies are worth, that 165 million quoted there is 0.4% of their worth. So yes, they’ll be paying attention to this market, but at 0.4%, they’re not going to be panicking about that loss of market share.

            “They would not be able to use their usual business model in a marijuana market, and would need to acquire large tracts of arable land, dealing with real estate prices and property taxes, in order to compete in that market.”

            They’d just grow it hydroponically, meaning they’d be able to just build on top of their already large, established production facilities.

            And yep while they won’t be able to patent its growth, or seeds, and maybe not use current techniques to monopolise the market, but unfortunately if it’s legalised, they’ll no doubt find a way of doing it.

          • Grant Larson

            There is ALL KINDS of information about marijuana’s efficacy, side effects, and safety. Do you live in a bubble?

            Efficacy is EXTRAORDINARILY high for basically all the things it is used to treat.

            Side effects include irritation of lungs, coughing, dry mouth, basically the kind of stuff you would expect of inhaling a heated gas, as well as the general effects of a depressant. These are usually quite mild if they are there at all, are usually limited to the period of the high and maybe a short period thereafter, and only become problematic if one smokes large amounts frequently. In addition, marijuana can cause paranoia (during the period of the high, that is, unless you smoke heavily/frequently) in some people, and can make mental disorders like schizophrenia more pronounced (again, during the high, unless you smoke heavily/frequently).

            As for the lethal dose, it is so high it is impossible to take in, and that lethal dose is only lethal because at that point the air is too saturated with non-O2 molecules for the human lung to take in oxygen at the necessary rate to keep a human alive. There are, however, cases of people who smoked marijuana and had heart attacks, due to the fact that marijuana can raise your heart rate, so people at risk of cardiac issues should not take it.

            For the life of me, I can’t figure out your style of numerical analysis. You take a study in which the change in Medicare expenditures for just 17 states was determined by looking ONLY at direct substitutions of marijuana for prescriptions, as the bottom line on how nationally legal marijuana would effect their profits? What the hell?

            And what of the other study discussed in the article that directly contradicts your claims about how many people would use cannabis over drugs? Seems like adults absolutely are willing to switch to cannabis, and do in droves, to the tune of 80%.

            What on Earth makes you think that competitors won’t ALSO grow hydroponically?

            Dude, I really don’t understand these mental gymnastics you’re engaging in. This is a significant loss for Big Pharma, no matter how you slice it.

  • Resist_Tyranny

    Decriminalization, not legalization.

  • cenk2000

    Natural and safe treatments have been known for thousands of years.

  • Dirk Prophet

    If you can’t find a victim, there should be no crime!!!

  • Jim Mooney

    But legalizing pot would also cut into the profits of the Prison Industry.

  • Bruce Keller

    I don’t even think the study takes into account the additional savings you’d get by using medical cannabis over some traditional medicine in the way of less side effects, so less treatment(and therefore costs) for those side effects.

    Sometimes not even side effects per say, like in the case of Tylenol for pain management. The costs of liver damage from long term use, or even short term use for the wrong people that are drinking too much, are probably pretty up there.

    If CDB oil can effectively help replace chemo and be a lot more cost effective, watch out! 🙂