Medicines Authority chief sticks to his guns
● ‘It’s a fact that some doctors prescribe ‘offlabel’ medication for abortions’
Medicines Authority chief Professor Anthony Serracino Inglott yesterday stood by his statement that licensing the morning-after pill (MAP) will reduce the rate at which abortions are carried out in Malta, despite the Medical Association of Malta demanding he retract his claim.
At a press conference convened yesterday afternoon, Prof Serracino Inglott explained that it is a fact that some women who are worried they might have become pregnant can find a doctor who will prescribe ‘off-label’ medication that has an abortive effect. He said that the medication would not be prescribed for its intended purpose (hence ‘offlabel’) and some, like the contraceptive pill if taken at a higher dose, can have the same effect as the MAP.
“I do not wish to offend or shock anybody, but this is a fact,” he said. “We all know that it is a fact. If the morning-after pill can be considered an abortifacient, then the same can be said for other medication that doctors are already prescribing for their patients,” he said. “Moreover, it is a fact that several Maltese women travel abroad to have an abortion.” The professor was speaking on a PBS current affairs programme.
This prompted Medical Association of Malta president Gordon Caruana Dingli to issue a statement saying that Prof. Serracino Inglott’s claims are “unsubstantiated” and “risk tarnishing the reputation of the entire medical profession”.
He added that abortion is a criminal offence and that such a statement “worries the public”.
Mr Caruana Dingli then asked the Professor and the rest of the members of the Medicines Authority board to disclose any conflict of interest in view of his claims that pharmacists had revealed to him whether or not they were willing to sell the MAP. Mr Caruana Dingli called this “commercially sensitive material”.
On this allegation, Prof. Serracino Inglott declared, unequivocally, that neither he nor any board members have any form of conflict of interest. He confirmed that the majority of pharmacists would be willing to sell the emergency contraception, and that this information had been passed on to him voluntarily.
“Are we now going to say that authorities across Europe have a conflict of interest? How ridiculous. As soon as I began my work with the Medicines Authority, I made sure that I had zero ties with any pharmaceutical companies and I ensure that I do not earn one cent, any wage, salary, dividends or anything else from any medication.”
Professor Serracino Inglott pleaded with the press to pass on the message that the Medicines Authority has no intention of licensing 30 types of MAP, some of which are known to have abortifacient effects. He explained that it is two brands that will be licensed, with two different active ingredients.
He stressed that the Medicines Authority is open and always replies to questions. He said that, prior to the decision being taken about the MAP, he had had extensive discussions with the Labour Party Parliamentary Group, the Archbishop and a representative from the Nationalist Party to answer their questions. He said he had spent hours with the former two, and that he offered to meet with the PN Parliamentary Group but they appeared not to have taken up the offer.
Asked about whether Mater Dei should be stocked with the emergency contraception for cases of rape, Prof. Inglott agreed and said it would be inhumane to add another obstacle to a woman who has passed through such a trauma.
“Imagine if, after all the tests and scans are taken in hospital, it’s the evening and pharmacists are closed. It’s not fair to treat people like that.”
We all know that it is a fact. If the morningafter pill can be considered an abortifacient, then the same can be said for other medication that doctors are already prescribing for their patients