Big Pharma Losing Money As Patients Switch From Opioids To Cannabis

Matt Weeks December 20, 2019 41 comments

Cannabis is helping chronic pain patients, resulting in Big Pharma losing money.

The news that cannabis is effective in treating most types of pain is shaking business and political institutions. Politicians and investors must come to grips with Big Pharma losing money due to the rise of cannabis.

The findings could have huge consequences for medical practice and public policy. For example, cannabis could reduce the number of accidental overdoses and providing avenues for critically ill patients to re-enter the workforce. This is according to a study, which took place in the University of California, Berkeley, and was published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research (2017).

The results also hint at a new world order for American politicians from both parties. Politicians who have long been in the pocket of large drug makers. The discovery shows Big Pharma losing money, which could signal a re-examination of today’s political give-and-take. This could end decades of the outsized influence drug companies hold over American public policy and healthcare.

What the Research Shows About Patients Switching to Cannabis

The study addressed the theory that medical cannabis could be used as a substitute for opioid-based pain relievers. To do so, researchers surveyed 2,897 medical cannabis patients about their experience with green therapy and how it impacted their pain and lives.

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It found a whopping ninety seven percent of respondents said cannabis worked very well. So well, in fact, that they were able to decrease their opioid intake. And ninety two percent said they preferred consuming cannabis to popping opioid pills. Another ninety three percent said they would prefer consuming cannabis to other medication if it were medically available to them.

That’s a remarkably strong response which ultimately results in Big Pharma losing money. In fact, it’s potentially devastating to drug makers’ bottom lines. More findings include other staggering figures. For instance, eighty one percent of respondents to the study testified that consuming cannabis alone was better for pain than combining cannabis and opioids together.

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Let that sink in. Cannabis does the job better, for the vast majority of patients, when it’s used without other medications.

BIG PHARMA LOSING MONEY represented by pills and bills

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Fewer Opioid Prescriptions Means Big Pharma Losing Money

Drug companies ought to be fearful of cannabis. That’s bad for the political prospects of cannabis legalization, but great news for medical patients. The only thing that’s preventing Big Pharma from losing even more money is the illegal status of medical cannabis in so many areas of the country.

An analysis by New Frontier Data (2017) estimates that cannabis could replace up to $4.9 billion worth of prescription medications in 2016 if it were legal across the U.S.. That figure addresses the consuming of cannabis for conditions beyond pain, including nine issues that cannabis have been proven to treat effectively. Conditions like PTSD, sleep disorders, anxiety, epilepsy, nausea, and glaucoma.

Today’s savings would be even higher — and higher still if the lives saved from opioid overdoses enter the equation. From 1999 to 2017, deaths from prescribed opioid drugs quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Maybe not coincidentally, opioid prescriptions also quadrupled during the same time period. Although the amount of pain Americans reported stayed about the same, the CDC reported. That’s a pretty clear sign America is overmedicating its ill — and much to their detriment.

How Cannabis can Help

There is a bright spot in all this bad news about opioid addiction and death. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (2014), found states that passed medical cannabis laws had significantly lower numbers of opioid-related deaths.

So not only do patients prefer cannabis over opioids when given the option, that choice also results in fewer deaths. Public policy circles call that a win-win scenario.

The study also found patients enrolled in Medicare Part D needed far fewer prescriptions after medical cannabis laws were passed. Such laws led to an average reduction of 1,826 daily doses of opioid-based painkillers annually per physician. That’s another way to show Big Pharma will lose a lot of money if access to the legalization of medicinal cannabis spreads across the U.S..

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BIG PHARMA LOSING MONEY represented by "greed" highlighted in the dictionary

The Public Policy Ramifications 

Overall, medical cannabis has three major effects on a population: It lowers the opioid mortality rate, results in lowered opioid use, and leads to a decrease in traffic fatalities. Those are three major public policy victories that benefit local communities, states, and the nation as a whole.

Part of the reason this works so well is by providing greater access to natural, effective medicine with fewer side effects. Another reason it works is that medical cannabis laws have a way of changing the stigma associated with consuming weed.

But medical cannabis laws do something else. These create a situation in which Big Pharma is losing money. And that makes cannabis a target for drug companies. Still, this is a green wave that has an unstoppable momentum at this point. It’s only a matter of time.

Author avatar

Matt Weeks

A writer living and working in Athens, GA, Matt's work has appeared in various newspapers, books, magazines and online publications over the last 15 years. When he's not writing, he hosts bar trivia, plays in local bands, and makes a mean guacamole. He holds an undergraduate degree in journalism and a master's degree in organizational theory. His favorite movie is "Fletch."


  1. Tina Syfer

    Tell the Dr. This because they will not give pan medication higher the IB 800.

    • Nicholas Banks

      I have my Medical Marijuana Card. Just waiting for 1/1/20 for dispensaries to open. Time to get off Vicodin.

      • Craig Sandberg

        My wife was a maintenance opioid used for 16 years due to a motorcycle accident. When NV legalized pot we researched and started using near pure CBD and voila…no more Vikies. We vape the CBD’s along with eucalyptus tropicals and not only does she not use opioids but my arthritis is all but gone. We consider it close to a miracle drug!

  2. Christina

    Its about time …they killed enough of our families.. for a dollar…

  3. Debbie Lambert

    FDA gave ownership to regulation of Cannabis to BigPharm. So, profits will rebound within months.

    Also, Cannabis as it’s been for centuries is about to become as deadly as pharmaceutical drugs.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Cannabis, as it’s been used for centuries, remains safe. Unregulated synthetic cannabinoids can cause kidney failure and death.

      • Nancy Jones

        This is what I want and I want it so bad but I’m also scared it won’t work. I’m on morphine and it works and I’m scared that if the cannabis doesn’t work, my doctor will not put me back on the morphine!!

        • Jennifer Grant

          Are you not permitted to try alternatives?

        • Poobear Sturgill

          Exactly… I was told if I chose to go the Medical Marijuana way it would be almost impossible to get my pain medicine back. That is NOT right!! Al because the pain doctors are having a Hissy Fit because you’re trying to make your life a little better.

    • Nicholas Banks

      Please provide the source of your statement, because I think it is BS.

      • Bullcrap. I have pain everywhere in my body my doctor prescribed the usual pills and more pills because its part of there package deal. They didnt do shit for me. However cannabis I will recommend to anyone that’s had enough of taking medication that doesn’t even work. Believe me when I say IT WORKS. I’m a totally different person than I was and I’m over the moon. I get out more with grandkids , I’m walking more and I love it.

      • Jusbyn Sayen

        “→ SYNTHETIC← ” cannabinoids. Hello, put down that blunt and clear your eyes. Can you read now?

    • Cmoore

      Debbie, where do you get this info from? One of the only reasons they made weed illegal was because they made more profit from it! Did you not read this article? There is nothing “deadly” about pot. Smoke some. You’ll see.

  4. Valda Murfree

    Very informative.

  5. Deborah R Mason

    There is so much wrong information un this article. How many people took the survey? 97% of how many people. I know several people myself included that have tried many different strains of cannabis and delivery and it does absolutely nothing for pain or anxiety. It does help with nausea. Also almost all opioid related deaths are due to illegal heroin and fentanyl, not legal pain pill rxs. And the reason Big Pharma is losing money because doctors are cutting life saving rx pain meds to so many that are now suffering due to the media creating this false opioid epidemic which is really a heroin epedemic. Almost all overdoses contained 3 to 5 drugs in the persons systems and they did not have a legal rx for pain medication. This entire article is complete garbage.

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Deborah – if you scroll down to the first subheading, you can find the number of ppl. What you speak if is a totally separate and pressing problem ( The opioid epidemic is not the heroin epidemic, although there is certainly some cross over as many of the patients you mention will seek heroin as a solution after being cut off. A little bit of research will help you sort all of that out. Thanks for joining the conversation!

      • Straight Facts

        That’s a pretty small sample size. Weed can ease pain but opiates are much more effective. If we legalized opiates we’d have less overdoses. Doctors are discouraged from prescribing pain pills which leads people to turn to heroin or pressed pills & the black market ensures that many drug dealers will use fentanyl to increase their profits. Weed will never replace opiates because they’re too different.

      • They are using cannabis as a backdoor to gun confession.
        It’s funny how if you want to use cannabis you’re not allowed to have a gun but if you are on any other pain medication or anxiety medicine they don’t say nothing a person that smokes a joint can have a gun but a person that takes Xanax is three times a day can have guns it’s all bulshit

    • Joy Kline

      I have no real experience w cannibis being used for anything other than recreational use so idk about the article. Seems off to me. However many heroin users had problems becoming addicted to prescription opiods before ever doing heroin. Drs would drop them after finding out they were addicted and sometimes patients would abuse the prescription or drs would wein them down too quickly causing withdrawal that lead some patients, many patients, to treat themselves to prevent withdrawal. So big pharma created other drugs, also addicting, to treat patients suffering withdrawal from opioids which are More opioid based drugs causing a cycle difficult to break. The withdrawal from opioids prescribed vs heroin is virtually the same as heroin is an opioidvand although one can be legally prescribed and the other illegally obtained, as are some prescribed opioids, the withdrawal, addiction, suffering are all the same. If cannibis assists someone to get off the opioids and the medications designed to get them off the opioids which do help people but does come with its own issues, then I’m all for people using cannibis to help them do it. I’m ALL for sticking it to big pharma too.

    • Thank you! These are valuable medications necessary for moderate to severe pain relief. Most patients taking opiate based medications are not abusing.

    • David Johanson

      Just WOW! Almost everything you said, Deborah, about opioid use is factually incorrect, or misleading. You’re either grossly uneducated on the subject or you’re reaping some form financial gain from the opioid industry. Either way, people are waking up from the Big Pharma stupor and moving forward with a natural, God-given solution that can be produced in your own home. Good riddance to greedy corporations that have conducted ‘mass-murder for profit’ for decades.

    • Brian Tonn

      I couldn’t agree more

    • Joyce MCCOLLUM

      You are so wrong! For 15 years I was prescribed opiates for terrible Degenerative Disc Disease! The pain management Dr I saw I started off with Lortab and and I ended up on Fentanyl! It was a nightmare! I went through withdrawal 3 times but kept going back because there was no other option. I finally found the strength to stop taking any opiates using CBD OIL.
      The most tragic part is not that he prescribed drugs to me that are only for cancer patients or that the combination of drugs he had me on! I lost at least 8 years of my life that are a complete blank. I missed my grandchildren growing up and while that in itself is a sad thing it isn’t the worst thing. My husband started stealing my meds and I had to move to my sons house next door so he couldn’t get them. 2 months later I found him dead lying in the doorway of our house. He had taken a lethal combination of the drugs he had stolen from me! It wasn’t done on purpose he was just so drugged up he couldn’t have made any decision at all.
      If Marijuana was legal here he would still be alive! I’ve used it for pain and it is incredible how effective it is.
      NOTE: The doctor I was seeing is now in a Federal Prison serving 21 years for a multitude of crimes.
      Marijuana works and I pray the day comes soon when it is legal everywhere!

    • Mattie

      Can cannabis help with people in methadone clinics that are addicts or is this clearly for pain etc?

  6. Greg Hardin

    Deborah, over 700,000 people have DIED from drug overdose ( mostly opioids) from 1999-2017 in U S.
    ZERO deaths EVER from full spectrum hemp oil!

  7. Desda Sayer

    Most of us chronic pain patients aren’t given a choice. Drs are refusing to fill pain meds because of this so called pain pill epidemic. I got news for you….its not a pain pill epidemic and rather its a herion and fentanyl epidemic. Weed or cbd does nothing for my pain and it makes my anxiety sky rocket. I have been on pain pills for 9yrs and now im being told that i get to basically suffer, cuz the government has to put blame on someone… for the herion that our the government put out on the streets. If you look at statistical research and causes of death….its not the pain pills killing people, Its the herion and fentanyl. And now pain patients are the ones whom are suffering from the lies fed to us by Fox News and our government about this called pain pill epidemic. Its a sad day when stage 4 cancer patients are left to suffer and the drs wont give them pain meds to assist with their pain.

    • Jennifer Grant

      You bring up important points! Cannabis is not appropriate for all levels and types of pain. BUT it can always participate in harm reduction. Taking opioids day after day, year after year is not sustainable. Fentanyl us an opioid created as a pharmaceutical.

      • Glass -Full!

        Yeah it sounds like the people angry about not getting opioids are addicted, and need there strong drugs. That’s not healthcare, it’s warfare- on poisons in peoples bodies. Yes some of the opioids they give you aren’t Heroine true. But anybody trying to compare opioids or heroine to cannabis is out of there mind. Our bodies have a endocannabinoid system where when we get cannabinoids it creates harmony throughout our body. You don’t get that healing from opioids you get fecked up, then it’s impossible to get off these strong drugs. Side effects of not taking cannabis aren’t on any level like going cold turkey on opioids. Yes some ppl may not like my response, but our society doesn’t need more ppl hooked on opioids. Drops ?

      • Mark

        I was in pain meds for a really long time. Until in my home state on Maine they legalized medical
        Marijuana. It has changed my life. They even have delivery companies that will discretely come to your house. I use Curated Cannabis out of Portland Maine

    • As someone who was in pain for over 14 years, watched her family suffer using opioids and back surgeries which later led to heroin/methadone for her sibling, is in the hemp/CBD industry, and cured her own pain in just 30 days without using opioids, I can for sure tell you that for most people a quality full or broad spectrum oral hemp oil, especially one that is absorbed in about 35 milliseconds can and has replaced opioids in my community. No prescription even needed. We should be allowed to grow this plant like tomatoes in our own backyard! Most pain and most sickness can be solved by getting on the inner playground of epigenetics/using meditation/other energy techniques. Everything can be healed and this has now been proven by science. In fact, we are in the Information age and at this point ignorance is a choice. You want to heal stage 4 cancer, google it! Alternatively, you can stay inside the victim programming that Big Pharma would LOVE for you to stay inside. I have watched top doctors who were previously on opioids for 10 years become pain free in just 10 minutes with a quality broad spectrum hemp oil. I have listened to testimonial after testimonial on all fronts – people coming off of diabetes medicine including cutting their injections in half with the benefit of a broad spectrum hemp oil, for example. CBD is anti-tumor. People need to actually make the time to do their research. It is right there in black and white and PubMed studies galore! The research is overwhelming! Choose your product wisely and do your research. Trust noone but yourself! Make no mistake, humanity is about to take its health and wealth back!

  8. Dewayne George

    I hope they lose a crap load of money after all these years of “treating” people instead of working on a cure. Cannabis heals, poison kills. If the lobbyists can’t pay the politicians their usual cut then maybe the politicians will start backing cannabis because they only care about money.

  9. schaila renee Johnson

    I am a medical marijuana user can I have been on gabapentin Vicodin Percocet most of my life and yes as I can keep anyone from having and take that medicine I would highly recommend medical marijuana it takes for your pain anxiety and kids your new life instead of making you drug bound and addicted

  10. Emily theisen

    for every single person who has tried to say that cannabis doesn’t do anything and want proof that it ACTUALLY WORKS to eradicate several ailments and diseases, here you go:


    now as you can see the 10 different links that i have so kindly included as to why the stigma of cannabis is a damn good thing that has been around for eons. yeah since 2000 b.c.e. and it was only illegalized because the government during the Great Depression were stupid as well as greedy, selfish, and only wanted what was best for the rich. so again for every single person who tried to say that this article is a load of bullshit, think again. i have PTSD, anxiety(social and general anxieties), severe/manic depression wild psychosis, ADD, ADHD, Asperger’s, panic attacks, sciatica, arthitis, carpel tunnel, chronic migraines, and that list goes on and on. not a single prescription medication has helped with anything at all for long term. but guess what did????? CANNABIS!! that’s the only thing that has worked for me. it’s worked for several people i know. just because it didn’t work fo so and so u know, it probably wasn’t the right strand for the job. before you try to say that even slightly related to cannabis is bullshit, there’s been well over 22.000…..reread that number again…..22,000+ studies have been conducted on the entirety of the marijuana plant. oh and FYI if u comsume hemp seeds or work with any kind of hemp products, guess what??? u are working with a part of the MARIJUANA PLANT. shocking isn’t it? before tryna say go put down the blunt or whatever it may be that you prefer to use for cannabis, do yourself a favor and go do your own research on everything and you will see just how beneficial it is for everyone as well. oh PS: EVERY SINGLE PERSON HAS A THING CALLED AN ENDOCANNABIDIOL SYSTEM!!!!!! oh wait…that means components of the MARIJUANA PLANT is already in your DNA.

    thank you and have fun educating yourself on the 10 articles i included for all you doubters.

  11. joe miller

    i am a Cancer Patient ( Lung and thyroid ) me Oncologist is doing their best for me to take the drug call lenvatinib and im not to sure after reading the after effects ,i have refuse ( Chemotherapy since 2012 )and all i’m doing is eating healthy my thyroid have disappear however my lung cancer have grown 4millimeters since august last year ,today is 14/1/20 37m -41m ,my question is Will CBD OIL will help me ? i’m not afraid of dying, is just that i need to fulfill some outstanding family commitments ,in the mean time i feel physical and mentally great

    • Jennifer Grant

      Joe – stick with your oncologist’s advice. Cannabis will help with unpleasant side effects of treatment and it has shown anti-tumoral effects in the lab and animal model. We’re not sure yet how well it can treat lung cancer in humans. Certainly there are plenty of positive anecdotal reports but no one shares the failures. It sounds like you’ve done all the right things in changing diet. Stay well.

  12. A jones

    It definitely won’t hurt!as a cancer patient also i can speak a little from my own experience.i was told i was chemo dependent and would need to stay on it.after4 years i quit.gave up but right at that time MDs medial marijunana program had just i started to use FECO(full extract cannabis oil) which is also known ad RSO(rick simpson oil).i took as much as i could with the little bit of extra money i had left after bills from my a year after i quit chemo i had a biopsy done and there was no sign of cancer.i was totaly shocked.i couldn’t believe it.I truly believe the cannabis oil helped and is continuing to help.i flooded my body with as much thc and other cannabinoids as i could.i also smoked for pain and symton management.i have a rare form of t-cell ill say it can only help my friend!i highly recommend trying thr cbd oil if you don’t like thc.and use a reputable company with good medicine like charolettes web cbd oil.i wish you the best.good luck!

  13. I have lupus and asthma so I dont know how this will help. My Pain Management doctor told me to try it. But it is not covered by my insurance. How expensive is it?

    • Jennifer Grant

      Hi Linda – cost depends on where you live. A 40mL bottle of cannabis oil ranges from $60 to $150. That would be a 40 day supply if you take 1mL per day. The dosing should be worked out with your physician. Lupus patients have success with CBD and THC is known to be a powerful bronchodilator. Talk to your doc about starting with a 1:1 cannabis oil.

  14. Hmm lets sum this up quickly! GOOD!!! Big Pharmacy is greedy and the FDA front runs for them to push “medicine” that is down right poison, when cannabis can relive the same issues and is much safer. If the two could find a monopolize ad fully cannabis they would in a heart beat. If they ever do that will turn into poison too. Then the pop ups and commercials titled “Have you taken Cannabis, if so you might be entitled to financial compensation” will start.