July 23, 2023

Medical Cannabis Makes Little Impact on Pain Management in Group Health

The Annals of Internal Medicine published Effects of U.S. State Medical Cannabis Laws on Treatment of Chronic Noncancer Pain, a new report that assess effects of state medical cannabis laws on receipt of prescription opioids, nonopioid prescription pain medications, and procedures for chronic noncancer pain.

Using commercial insurance data from 583,820 patients across 12 states that implemented medical cannabis laws and 17 comparison states, researchers used augmented synthetic control analyses to estimate cannabis laws’ effects on the receipt of chronic noncancer pain treatment, relative to predicted treatment receipt in the absence of medical cannabis laws law.

This study did not identify important effects of medical cannabis laws on the receipt of opioid or nonopioid pain treatment among patients with chronic noncancer pain.

A key observation to note is that this study utilizes group health data, and utilization of medical cannabis within this population may differ from other populations. Many other reports have found medical cannabis to reduce the utilization of opioids and other pain medications.

Healthesystems has previously reported on studies from JAMA and Health Economics that found medical cannabis use led to significant reductions in MME and opioid dispensing. Additional studies also found evidence that medical cannabis reduced opioid utilization. One JAMA survey of medical cannabis users noted self-reported decreases of opioid use.

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