(Adds Nisa Laburisti statement)

A leading medicine importer is willing to apply for a licence toget the morning-after pill, this newspaper has learnt.

The importer, Neofarma Pharmaceuticals, already imports another form of contraceptive – the coil – which also contains levonorgestrel, the same active ingredient found in the morning-after pill.

“In the past, we considered applying to import the emergency contraceptive, but we never got round to actually submitting an application. However, in light of the recent debate, we would most definitely be interested in importing such a pill,” a spokesman for Neofarma told this news­paper yesterday.

He said it made “no sense” that, while other contraceptives containing the same ingredients were readily available on the market, the morning-after pill remained unlicensed.

I have seen prescriptions where it’s clear that the intention is to mimic the morning-after pill

He said that his company had never been approached by doctors or other medical professionals to apply for such a licence. Medicines Authority chairman Anthony Serracino Inglott said no such application had ever been submitted.

Backed up by 102 women aged between 16 and 62, the Women’s Rights Foundation filed a judicial protest last week against the State, demanding that the licensing, importation and distribution of emergency contraception to be made legal.

The move led to a heated debate among supporters of the emergency contraceptive and those who believe it could be abortive.

Feedback from pharmacists approached by this newspaper indicates that requests for the morning-after pill – which works either by stopping the ovary from releasing an egg or by causing thinning of the lining of the womb, in turn preventing implantation – are especially common in the central areas of Malta, especially among foreigners.

A spokeswoman for the Brown’s Pharmacy chain said that while there was the “odd request” for the contraceptive, most people were aware that it could not be sold in Malta and did not often ask for it.

Another pharmacy chain, Chemimart, receives regular requests for the morning-after pill, especially in more central areas of the island like Valletta, Sliema and Buġibba.

“Most requests, however, come from tourists who do not know that the contraceptive is not sold here. In fact, we get most of the requests at pharmacies in areas where there are a lot of tourists,” a Chemimart spokesman said.

Pharmacists reported they often came across customers who would ask for medication in a way that suggested they would be attempting to replicate the effect of the morning-after pill.

According to the Women’s Rights Foundation, since emergency contraceptives are not legal in Malta, women who do not want to get pregnant but have had unprotected sex often resort to taking an overdose of the contraceptive pill, which is available by prescription.

“I have seen prescriptions where it’s clear that the intention is to mimic the morning-after pill effect. If the prescription is coming from a doctor, then as a pharmacist, I cannot refuse to sell it to the customer,” a pharmacist told this newspaper on the condition of anonymity.

Another pharmacist said that some women asked for the oral contraceptive pill. However, when a prescription was demanded, they would not have one, suggesting they did not want to take the pill on a regular basis.

“Women are aware that there are other options, and so we do get these sorts of requests. It’s pretty clear they have not been prescribed the pill by their doctor but instead wanted it to use as emergency contraception,” the pharmacist said.

In a statement, the Nisa Laburisti said they supported the availability of the pill.

They said they reached their position after they discussed the issue with stakeholders and professionals and considered their advice.

The Nisa Laburisti said the availability of the pill should be accompanied by an education campaign on sexual and reproductive health and rights from the very early years. ‎ 

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