Medicines Au­thor­ity chief sticks to his guns

● ‘It’s a fact that some doc­tors pre­scribe ‘of­fla­bel’ med­i­ca­tion for abor­tions’

Malta Independent - - NEWS - He­lena Grech

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

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