WASHINGTON (Gray DC) As prescription drug prices continue to climb, some older Americans appear to be seeking an alternative to mainstream medicine, medical marijuana.
“We are seeing patients that are reporting that they are finding a medication that is meeting their needs where other medications did not," said Steph Sherer with Americans for Safe Access.
Sherer says she's encouraged to see new research published by the journal, Health Affairs. It found the number of prescriptions for painkillers dipped dramatically in states where medical marijuana is legal.
“We know that a lot of our pain patients discover when they start using cannabis not only are they able to treat the pain without as much opioids, but they also have a clarity in their life that they didn't have before," Sherer said.
The study also shows fewer prescriptions resulted in about $165 million in Medicare savings in 2013, but some experts say that figure is misleading.
“Medicare is a 500 billion dollar a year program. When you put that into context that's a savings of .03 percent that's being claimed by the study," said Jeff Zinsmeister with Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
Zinsmeister says his organization supports the research and development of FDA-approved compounds derived from marijuana, but says more studies are needed.
“It is very important that it go through the FDA approval process. That they know that the substance that is bought in a pharmacy in Denver is the same thing that you buy in Seattle," Zinsmeister said.
The Drug Enforcement Agency recently decided not to remove marijuana from its list of most dangerous drugs, but it will allow more research into its possible medical benefits. For the last 50 years the University of Mississippi was the only institution allowed to conduct marijuana research. Now, the government will allow other universities to apply to grow marijuana.
[The video above incorrectly names Smart Approaches to Marijuana as Safe Approaches to Marijuana]