Medical cannabis may be legal in Malta – but you would have a hard time confirming this if you spoke to a number of patients and doctors in the field.
Three years later, since the island legalized the plant, patients have continued to grapple with out of print drugs, delayed approvals and uncooperative officials, with some patients returning to undesirable behavior as a result.
Just today the police had to be called to a Safi pharmacy after a patient tried to get his medication with a prescription … only to find out that there were only two doses left and that both were reserved for someone else.
The patient became aggressive, creating an unacceptable situation for both the pharmacist and the patient that could easily be remedied if the authorities took the patient’s needs more seriously.
Constant and unlimited delays
To gain access to medical cannabis, patients must periodically seek reassignment from the office of the Superintendent of Public Health, led by Professor Charmaine Gauci, with Victor Pace as the office’s pharmacist. He is responsible for examining applications.
Once patients receive a prescription from a doctor, they are entered in the Office’s register, with all relevant details included in their entry. As this is a very controlled system, it can often lead to significant delays or even the rejection of applications to the detriment of patients.
“I have been denied patient applications even though they were sent over a week before my prior authorization expired,” a Maltese doctor told Lovin Malta. “Applications are then postponed by three weeks or more and patients inevitably regularly go without medication.”
“When we tried to call the Office to clarify, we were told we were wasting their time and when all these requests come in they cannot keep up with our requests …”
After years of dealing with this, doctors feel that medical cannabis patients are the lowest priority from the government perspective and that authorities are doing their best to avoid approving applications.
“This leaves patients at the mercy of government employees who feel they have more important things to do.”
However, more and more people are speaking up.
A Maltese MEP, Alex Agius Saliba, who has worked to provide better access for patients when needed, is speaking to doctors and patients about possible assistance.
“But until then, I have patients waiting for approval for over a month, and they’re not the only ones. But apparently the superintendent’s office has more important things to do … “
Endless sell-out problems
Malta only carries a handful of cannabis brands, including Bedrocan. However, it has been out of stock for around a month – and it’s still far from the first time.
“Patients return to their canes, don’t sleep, and freak out. Others become aggressive, ”a doctor told Lovin Malta. “Many have developed symptoms again.”
One patient who spoke to Lovin Malta described how useless it felt to go through the application and be approved, only to find out regularly that there were no medications.
“Why am I being prescribed something that is not available?” They asked. “What other drug do you have to order and wait for days or weeks just because the pharmacy doesn’t just order 20 or 30 doses of each and keep them in stock?”
“It’s so strange – you spend time and money seeing a doctor, get the stamp, get signed and approved, and then it’s put into a system, be it the government health department or just dealing with a pharmacy and theirs Hurdles. ”They said.
“It has become clear that people who overlook all of this are not fully immersing themselves in the idea that this is medicine,” they complained.
Between feeling ostracized by the government and some pharmacists, finding constant barriers to accessing their medication, and regularly finding that their medication isn’t even in stock after all this, patients are at the end of what they’re supposed to do except on the black market
However, let’s not forget what Malta’s Parliamentary Secretary for Consumer Affairs and the man who oversees the Maltese Medical Board said to patients when there was a drought last August – anyone who turns to the black market when the government isn’t in able to do their job, resort to “witchcraft”.
Lovin Malta contacted the office of the Superintendent of Public Health but received no response.
Do you have any hope that Malta’s medical cannabis patients will ever get the treatment they deserve?