On February 10, Medical Marijuana Access & Patient Safety, Inc. (MMAPS), a coalition of patients and the medical cannabis industry, filed a lawsuit in the Commonwealth Court seeking to stay the actions of the Department of Health (the Department) restricting the access of approved medications for more than half a million patients. This action has needlessly alarmed thousands of medical cannabis patients in Pennsylvania, who rely on these products for personal medical needs. MMAPS is united in our concern for patient safety and is seeking immediate injunctive relief to protect the patient population and their access to approved and tested medication.
These medications, all previously approved and deemed appropriate for patient treatment by the Department, have been removed from dispensary shelves without any adverse event reports. The Department’s action deprives access to medicine, continuity of care and continuation of established treatment regiments for over half million Pennsylvanians suffering from serious medical conditions without notice. The categorical removal of access to medication that many patients have been relying upon for the past four years in the absence of a health or safety reason to do so itself creates a health and safety risk for patients.
Concern for patient safety is the reason MMAPS filed its litigation – because the Department’s actions, no matter how intended, threaten that safety. The recall removed access to critical medications immediately without any consideration for a supply of cannabis-based medication alternatives. This immediate reduction in overall supply of medication available to the half a million Commonwealth patients who rely on these medicines will create shortages. This will inevitably lead to patients seeking cannabis in the untested illicit market, where no testing or safety regulations are, or have ever been, available.
Unlike the illicit market alternatives, the medications recalled were previously approved by the Department, tested, and used without incident. They are a critical part of patients’ treatment regimen, making limited access a patient safety concern. Additionally, the recall of these medications now is not based on any triggering event threatening patient health and safety – it is based on an erroneous interpretation of new statutory language.
MMAPS seeks a resolution that prioritizes patient safety and access to medication subject to consistent testing and safe dispensation. While MMAPS is seeking legal relief, it remains our goal to re-initiate a collaborative process with the Department so it will reverse its course and make these critical medications available to the patient population once again.
The threat to safe access to patient medication by this recall warranted immediate legal action even as MMAPS seeks to find a solution through a collaborative process with the Department. It is our position that the best way to ensure and protect patient safety is to maintain the comprehensively and stringently regulated program built over the last six years, and MMAPS is committed to ensuring that through the legal process if necessary