Medical marijuana has long been viewed as a possible treatment  for a variety of ailments. New reports are showing a correlation between medical cannabis and fewer prescription medications filled in those states that have legalized the plant. The financial impact is especially pronounced in Medicare Part D spending – which is the part of the plan that covers prescription expenses. But, this brings competing interests and financial incentives – and pharmaceutical companies have noticed the impact on their profits.

The role of pharmaceutical companies in healthcare

For-profit healthcare comes with limitations. It provides jobs and legitimate treatment to many in need. But it also incentivizes the need for people to get or remain sick. While this doesn’t fit the description of actual health care providers (doctors, nurses, social workers, etc.), it does describe powerful systems that makeup the healthcare industry. Pharmaceutical companies, in particular, profit from illness, both acute and chronic. They profit from more prescriptions being filled and the longer one’s symptoms remain, the more likely someone is to refill their medications. Medicinal marijuana intercepts that profit margin, as it provides alternative treatment options against which pharmaceutical companies cannot compete (after all, there is no Pfizer weed strain).

The strategy to block weed

Pharmaceutical companies have always been attempting to curb, block, and reverse legalized marijuana. They’ve done this by funding research by academics who are known to be anti-cannabis. Vice previously reported that, “[M]any of the researchers who have advocated against legalizing pot have also been on the payroll of leading pharmaceutical firms with products that could be easily replaced by using marijuana.” Lobbying politicians with biased research is another strategy, and pharmaceutical companies tout faulty findings to make it happen. Controversial studies like the ones that suggest youth intake of cannabis increases alongside crime and poverty, are often cited to invoke hesitation about legalization.

 

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