A woman who had to take a prescription medicine for breast cancer last year is suing the city and the health department for denying her a prescription.
Amy Zajicek, a 36-year-old mother of two from Tacoma, Washington, says she received her first prescription for a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID, from a doctor in August.
But, she said, her request for a second was turned down by her doctor, because of a policy that requires patients to request the drug if they are experiencing side effects.
Zajiceks case is one of at least 12 similar cases involving women who say they were denied access to medication for their breast cancer in recent months.
In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington state on Monday, Zajices lawyers argue that Washington state has violated the federal Controlled Substances Act by denying access to NSAIDs to women who need them most.
The suit seeks class-action status for women like Zajics who say the state has “misled” them into believing they cannot use NSAIDs.
“Washington State has been a leader in advancing access to prescription drugs for breast and ovarian cancer patients and their families, but the federal government has failed to enforce its own laws to protect these women from the harm caused by these drugs,” Zajiciks lawyers wrote in the lawsuit.
“Women are not only denied the medication that they need for their cancer, they are denied the right to know what they need and how to use it.”
A spokeswoman for the Washington Department of Health said in a statement: “The department continues to work with state and local governments and community partners to promote access to medical treatment for breast, ovarian and cervical cancer patients.”
The state of Washington has been the focus of much attention after an Associated Press investigation last year revealed widespread opioid use among some Washington residents and hospitals.
State officials have acknowledged that opioid abuse is on the rise and have instituted several strategies to help curb the problem, including new opioid monitoring sites in hospitals and doctors’ offices.
However, the state health department has acknowledged that it has struggled to control the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed to patients, as well as the drug’s use in the state.
“The opioid epidemic is not just a problem for Washington state.
The nation is facing an opioid crisis of similar magnitude,” said Dr. David Wegman, medical director of the National Cancer Institute.
“It’s an epidemic that affects everyone in this country.
So, as we approach the first anniversary of the opioid crisis, we need to do more to make sure we’re addressing the underlying issues and not just focusing on one area.”
The AP investigation found that in the three months between the AP investigation and the state’s most recent annual report, the number for the month was down more than 50% compared to the same period in 2016.
In the Washington state case, the suit says the city denied Zajiciaks request for the medication because it didn’t think she could afford it.
The suit also says the state told Zajicys doctors she needed to go to the emergency room and pay for a test.
Zajjiceks lawyers argue the state also denied her request because of its own policy that prohibits doctors from prescribing NSAIDs if they were diagnosed with a “specific medical condition.”
Zajicks lawyers also say that the city’s policy violates the federal National Labor Relations Act by preventing women from organizing and organizing for higher wages and benefits.
The AP said the city declined to comment on the suit.