The Medical Association has strongly criticised a declaration by the Minister of Health than pharmacists could soon be given the power to prescribe certain medicines.

Speaking during the opening of a symposium, Dr Cassar said prescribing pharmacists existed in other countries. In fact, in May 2006 British nurses and pharmacists who had undergone the appropriate training were able to prescribe medicines.

The doctors' union said however that the Medicines Act prevents medical practitioners from dispensing medicine, thus protecting patients from a potential conflict of interest between the prescriber and the dispenser who profits from the sale of medicines.

"The Medical Association of Malta is surprised and disappointed that the Health Ministry is considering abandoning the ethical principles in the prescription of medicines. Patients have the right to be diagnosed by a registered medical practitioner before a medicine can be prescribed. This is a basic tenet of patient safety," the MAM said.

"The council of the Medical Association of Malta condemns any attempt to allow anybody who is not a registered physician to diagnose and prescribe and then dispense a medicine."

The MAM said a more appropriate reform would be the liberalisation of pharmacy licences to encourage competition which would then drive down the cost of medicines.

"The proposed reform to allow non‐physician prescribing will lead to unsafe practice and a conflict of interest which will further raise the price of medicines."

The association said the ministry should also impose on pharmacies a requirement to stock drugs used in medical emergencies. A dangerous lacuna has been created pharmacies had decided to abandon this critical aspect of patient care, and focus on cosmetic products which had nothing to do with the practice of medicine or pharmacy, the MAM said.

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