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Morning-after pill to be sold over the counter

Decision announced hours after Valletta protest

Updated 3.08pm - Added PN statement

The morning-after pill will be made available over-the-counter and will not require a doctor's prescription, Medicines Authority chief Anthony Serracino Inglott told Times of Malta today.

“We looked at all the recommendations made by the parliamentary committee but have decided that to ensure that there is efficacy, the contraceptive will be made available over-the-counter,” Prof. Serracino Inglott said this morning.

Earlier this month, a joint parliamentary committee said the decision on whether the controversial pill should be made available should be taken by the authority but insisted this should be given against a doctor’s prescription.

According to Prof. Serracino Inglott, the committee based this position on information supplied by the Medical Council. He insisted that the efficacy of the contraceptive – which has to be taken within a few hours in order to be effective – was not taken into consideration when this suggestion was made.

The authority has always based its decisions on three things; quality, safety of patients and efficacy

“The authority has always based its decisions on three things; quality, safety of patients and efficacy. By asking patients to go to doctors to get their hands on the contraceptive, you are compromising efficacy,” he said.

The authority head also insisted that the parliamentary committee failed to take into consideration that Malta’s pharmacists not only have the necessary skills to be able to give the MAP but they also rank among Europe’s best pharmacists in patient-centred care.

“Our duty is towards the patient and so it’s our job to ensure they receive the best care. We respect the Medical Council and the committee’s recommendations but we had to think of patients,” Prof. Inglott said.

The development comes just a day after some 300 people protested in Valletta over a parliamentary committee's recommendation for the morning-after pill not to be sold over-the-counter.

The debate on whether the morning-after pill should be made available made headlines earlier this year after the Women’s Rights Foundation filed a judicial protest against the State calling for this to be licenced.

Some had slammed the move to sell the pill over the counter as an attempt to legalise abortion in Malta.

 

Simon Busuttil welcomes decision

In a statement issued this afternoon, Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil welcomed the Medicines Authority decision and praised NGOs for their work on the issue. 

He singled out "the women involved at acted as agents of change" for particular praise. 

Last week, Dr Busuttil had initially backed the "compromise" recommendation made by a parliamentary committee calling for emergency contraception to be subject to a doctor's prescription. 

He subsequently changed tack and clarified that although the compromise was "a step in the right direction", it was up to the Medicines Authority to decide whether the morning-after pill should be made available over the counter. 

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