Government Whip rebuffs claims that parliamentary committee exerted pressure on Medicines Authority on MAP issue
Government Whip Godfrey Farrugia has rebuffed claims that the parliamentary committee which made recommendations for the Morning After Pill to be provided via a doctor’s prescription exerted some form of pressure on the Medicines Authority.
It is up to the Medicines Authority, which is an autonomous entity, to license medication in Malta. Some days ago, it announced that MAP would be licensed and made available over the counter through pharmacies.
Asked about comments made by Dr Andrea Dibben of the Women’s Rights Foundation – the very same that originally filed a judicial protest in July to have MAP licensed in Malta – that the parliamentary committee attempted to exert pressure on the Medicines Authority through its recommendations, Dr Farrugia said: “We did not exert pressure, if you see the various conclusions of the report, we never exerted pressure on the authority.
“I never commented on Professor Anthony Serracino Inglott’s conclusions, which shows that there was no attempt to influence an area that is his remit.”
Taking a look at the conclusions from the report drawn up by the joint parliamentary committee, clause five speaks of the Criminal Code of Malta. The implication here is that while the Medicines Authority is an autonomous body, it is not completely independent as it must still adhere to Malta’s laws.
Clause number six then goes on to say that the Medicines Authority should not license a medicine that has an abortive effect. Whether MAP can have an abortive effect is hotly disputed by the pro-life camp, citing studies that find in a minority of cases it could have an effect post-fertilisation. Major international health organisations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, as well as a number of Malta’s health care professionals have said that there is no evidence to support this claim.
A protest was held last Sunday over the parliamentary committee’s recommendation for MAP to be issued via a doctor’s prescription. Gender Equality Malta, the Women’s Rights Foundation and other proponents of the drug argued that time is of the essence in the case of emergency contraception, and further delays in its accessibility would defeat the purpose.
The concluding remarks of the report drawn up by the joint parliamentary committee argue that while Malta has the luxury of providing access to family doctors, whether privately or publicly, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In view of the wide spread accessibility of family doctors, seeking a prescription would not pose such an obstacle and would also provide a platform for discussing social, family and long-term contraceptive issues.
It has also been argued that should the need for MAP arise when pharmacies are closed, one would have to wait for the officehours in order to gain access, therefore defeating the argument of time being of the essence. Had the drug been licensed and available via prescription, a woman in need could visit a doctor available, most likely through Malta’s health care centres, and then go to hospital to purchase MAP, no matter the time.