The Malta Independent 19 October 2019, Saturday

Chamber of Pharmacists warns professionals against incorrect dispensing of MAP

Rebekah Cilia Monday, 18 February 2019, 10:00 Last update: about 9 months ago

The Chamber of Pharmacists (Kamra tal-Ispizjara) has sent an email to its members stating that there is a standard question protocol that pharmacists must follow when dispensing the Morning After Pill without a prescription.

These guidelines, the email said, are professional tools and should be kept confidential.

The Chamber also noted that pharmacists should avoid engaging in public discussions on social media. "The Chamber reprimands pharmacists who do not uphold such standards bringing the profession to disrepute.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The saga commenced when several women complained on a Facebook group saying that they were being ill-treated when purchasing the MAP, The Malta Independent has learnt. Several other reports have also emerged in the media with women complaining that the questions asked by pharmacists were too personal.

Issues surrounded men not being sold the MAP, asking persons for their ID card or for a form to be filled in. The general lack of privacy when purchasing the emergency contraception was also noted.

Posting in the group, one pharmacist said that she does sell the MAP to men, and never asks for an ID card or for any form to be filed in. Furthermore, the pharmacist also confirmed that she takes the people asking for the emergency contraception aside and questions them privately.

The types of questions she asks is how long it has been since the person has had intercourse, so as to decide which MAP is ideal, if the woman is lactose intolerant as the pill has lactose and other health related questions.

Further to this, the Chamber issued the email and asked that sections from it are posted on the group.

It confirmed that there is a standard question protocol that pharmacists must follow in order to ensure that there is indeed scope for using the MAP, and that it is not detrimental to the health of the women that take it.

“These questions are a safeguard not an intrusion. It is disrespectful to expect no questions when dispensing of medicine,” the Chamber noted.

According the Medicines Authority's guidelines for dispensing the emergency contraception pill, “the pharmacist must be satisfied that, in the exercise of his or her professional judgment, the supply of such a medicine is safe and appropriate for the individual patient.”

The guidelines also say that all requests for these medicines should be handled sensitively and due consideration must be given to the patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality.

Another issue that was brought to the attention of this newsroom was that those pharmacists not stocking, or personally objecting to the MAP, as they are perfectly entitled to do so, are failing to give patients the name of alternative pharmacies from which the emergency contraception is available.

A pharmacist who works in a pharmacy that has chosen not to stock the MAP, or a pharmacist who personally objects to the MAP but works in a pharmacy that does sell it, is obliged to refer the customer to a pharmacy that will sell it.

In comments to The Malta Independent, Andrea Dibben, the chairperson of Women Rights Foundation, said two years after the introduction of emergency contraception “access remains limited due to the practice of conscientious objection which is based on misinformation about how ECPs work and the wrong belief that they are abortifacient.”

“The weekends when many pharmacies are closed are especially problematic. Service delivery protocols are also unclear. While we hear that the chamber of pharmacists have issued some guidelines these have not been made public so we cannot ascertain if such guidelines follow international protocols or if pharmacists are adhering to them or not. We have heard cases of women’s access to emergency contraception being impeded due to what women feel are unnecessary or inappropriate screening or due to pharmacists refusing to sell it to third parties (eg partner).”

Dibben said improved access to emergency contraception has the potential to avert unwanted pregnancies and abortions and is a crucial public health service. “We welcome the decision to make it available to rape victims as part of the national health services and due to the restrictions existing in the private market we recommend that such access is expanded to all women and girls especially during night time and weekends since studies have shown that the earlier it is taken, the more effective it is at preventing unwanted pregnancies.”

 

  • don't miss