As more and more people drop prescription drugs for medical cannabis, reports like this explain why Big Pharma is scrambling to keep prohibition in place. It also explains why the DEA has such close ties to the pharmaceutical industry.
By Justin Gardner
The question of why cannabis remains illegal becomes more unavoidable by the day, as scientific evidence mounts for its medicinal powers and states continue to decriminalize the plant. The legal drugs of alcohol and nicotine kill hundreds of thousands every year and have little to no medical value – but the ingestion of cannabis kills no one, and heals many.
The war on drugs itself is an utter failure by the metrics it was supposed to address – drug availability, drug prices and drug use. With the absence of any rational basis for prohibition, it begs the question of what actually sustains it.
We know the State profits immensely from the drug war, acquiring wealth and power by arbitrarily naming certain substances “illicit.” In the modern-day corporatocracy, certain industries profit as well, most notably prisons and various entities involved in State oppression.
In the area of cannabis, perhaps the biggest beneficiary to prohibition is the pharmaceutical industry. Big Pharma tried and mostly failed to defeat the groundswell movement of cannabis legalization in many states. But it seems to have a friend in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which against all reason decided to keep cannabis a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance.
Big Pharma admitted that legal cannabis poses a threat to its profit, and that reality is underscored in a new analysis from New Frontier Data. If medical cannabis were adopted in all 50 states, it would siphon about $4.5 billion a year from the pharma industry.
“New Frontier Data identified nine conditions in particular to assess the impact of the legalization of cannabis would have on prescription drug use.
Among those, spending on treatments for chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) represented about 60% of the total. Overall in 2016, it was estimated that patients spent nearly $14.3 billion and $10.6 billion, respectively, to treat chronic pain and PTSD. The costs to treat sleep disorders, anxiety, epilepsy, nerve pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), Tourette syndrome, and glaucoma collectively accounted for the other 40% dedicated toward treatments.
There is significant savings to be realized in the health care system both to consumers and the U.S. government. It is estimated that cannabis and related products can replace between $4.4 billion and $4.9 billion of current annual spending on those existing treatments.”
In a press release, New Frontier CEO Aguirre De Carcer said, “Looking at these numbers, it would appear that medical cannabis would be a drop in the bucket when it comes to impacting the total pharmaceutical industry. However, when you start to break down the numbers by specific sectors of the industry, like chronic pain or symptoms associated with chemotherapy, which are very lucrative markets for pharmaceutical companies, you will certainly see cannabis have a major impact.”
They referenced a July 2016 study which found that, on average, about 11 percent of patients in legal weed states are successfully replacing prescription drugs with medical cannabis. This, along with other studies, prompted New Frontier Data to look further into the dynamic of medical cannabis and pharmaceutical drugs.
A National Academies of Science study identified nine specific conditions where medical cannabis can have a beneficial role – including chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – which were used by New Frontier Data for their analysis. Another report showed that taxpayers could save $1.1 billion on Medicaid prescriptions annually if medical cannabis were legalized nationwide.
“Any opportunity for alternatives that could result in reduced pharmaceutical drug use might present a compelling point of discussion from a public policy standpoint,” said John Kagia, executive vice president of industry analytics at New Frontier.
The problem is, public policy is largely controlled by interests that have no desire to reduce profits by reducing prescription drug consumption, and have no desire to relinquish power by decriminalizing a medicinal plant that harms no one.
Judging by DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg, his agency will continue taking the lead in government’s war on people. Only a few days ago Rosenberg reminded us of the staggering, willful ignorance that guides the drug war, stating, “Marijuana is not medicine.”