MPs recommend doctor’s prescription for morning-after pill

Late-night meeting of three parliamentary committees concludes morning-after pill can only be dispensed against doctor’s prescription • Licence can only be issued by Medicines Authority following rigorous assessment

The recommendations will be presented to parliament next week
The recommendations will be presented to parliament next week

Members of parliament sitting on the social affairs, health and family committees will recommend to the House of Representatives that the emergency contraceptive pill can only be dispensed against a doctor’s prescription, as recommended by the Medical Council.

The 10 recommendations will be presented to parliament next week, when MPs reconvene from the summer recess.

The recommendations follow months of discussions where the joint committee listened to various experts and stakeholders who gave conflicting advice and opinions on the modes of action of the morning-after pill (MAP).

The lack of agreement amongst experts –some categorically stating that the MAP such as Plan B was not an abortifacient, while the jury is still out on ellaOne – led the committee to reiterate that the onus was on the Medicines Authority, as the responsible authority.

The move might raise questions as to why months of discussions were required, but the MPs also argued that they were making “things clear”.

They said the Medicines Authority must assess and process each individual application that comes through, in respect of the Criminal Code and the Embryo Protection Act. “Any decision taken by the Medicines Authority must be based on the present laws, without hindering the fundamental human rights as listed in Malta’s constitution,” their recommendations read.

The MMA will be told that it can only issue a license for the medicinal products if it results that they are not abortifacients, as defined by Malta’s laws.

The recommendations will protect the patient’s right to take a voluntary and informed decision whilst doctors will be free to act as conscientious objectors when deciding whether to prescribe the morning after pill or not.

In correspondence sent to the committee prior to this evening’s meeting, MMA chairman Professor Anthony Serracino Inglott recommended that “physicians should be urged to use Levonorgestrel as first line”.

Serracino Inglott was also of the opinion that Levonorgestrel and ellaOne should at first be made prescription-only, and at a later stage assess and reconsider the option of making the MAP available as pharmacist-recommended medicine.

This evening’s committee was chaired by Labour MP Anthony Agius Decelis. MPs present from the government side were Health Minister Chris Fearne and MPs Godfrey Farrugia, Deo Debattisa and Etienne Grech; the opposition was represented by MPs Paula Mifsud Bonnici, Claudette Buttigieg, Michael Gonzi, Clyde Puli and Robert Cutajar.

More in Health