After a young woman recently opened up about her less-than-perfect experience trying to obtain the Morning After Pill (MAP) in Malta, we wanted to see what the situation was like for ourselves.
Lovin Malta asked for the MAP in 10 different pharmacies around the island and discovered some notable differences between different pharmacies and localities. Some turned to a script, some went off their own script, and some let their own personal views affect the way they treated customers.
This is what happened when we tried to buy the MAP from 10 Maltese pharmacies
NB: When asked whether we had taken the MAP before, we replied yes and maintained the dates at which we had taken it for consistency’s sake.
Pharmacies that stocked the MAP
1. Chemimart, Valletta
How it went: Served by a man, mid-to-late 30s, who had a foreign accent. He served the MAP to me without questions, but with a judgmental look. He didn’t ask me for ID.
2. Collins Williams, Valletta
How it went: Served by a Maltese man in his 20s, he looked very sympathetic; he didn’t ask me for ID, only how long it had been since intercourse. When I told him, he smiled and replied: “Don’t worry, you’re well within the time range.”
3. Drugstore, Gżira
How it went: Served by a woman in her late 30s. She asked me the following questions:
- Is it for you?
- When did intercourse happen?
- When was your last period?
- Was it normal?
- Do you suffer from any conditions, allergies or chronic illnesses?
- Have you ever taken it?
Her response was: “Let’s try not to take it too often because it has a high dose of hormones and it can affect your mood and your periods. It’s better if you can find something else to prevent it.”
She asked me for ID before selling it to me.
4. Brown’s Pharmacy, Sliema
How it went: Served by a woman in her mid-30s. I was asked for ID, taken to a private room and the woman pulled out a sheet of paper to ask the following questions:
- Are you on contraception?
- Do you have chronic diseases?
- Is it for you?
- Is it the first time you’re taking it?*
“You know you shouldn’t be taking it so often, right?” Her body language seemed to express annoyance and judgment.
“If you’re gonna be having sex, you need to go to a doctor and get an oral contraceptive,” she then told me.
She gave me a choice between two kinds of MAPs and described their differences, and asked me which one I’d like to take. I wasn’t expecting this based on her previous demeanour, but with how informative she was, I felt her ‘coldness’ came from a place of frustration at my lack of knowledge with regards to the drug, not the reason behind my taking it.
5. Brown’s Pharmacy, Birkirkara
How it went: Went in with a male colleague. Served by a female pharmacist who asked for my ID and produced the same sheet of paper from the Brown’s pharmacy in Sliema.
However, her demeanour was much more comfortable and she did not make me feel judged.
Her manner of speaking was very conversational. She was discreet in asking the questions, despite the pharmacy being full of clients.
In both cases, I had to sign the form once I collected the MAP. The consistency I received with regards to the procedure at the two separate pharmacies made me feel safer than other pharmacies.
6. Melita Pharmacy, St Julian’s
How it went: Served by a female pharmacist in her early 40s, who asked me for ID but didn’t ask any further questions.
Pharmacies that did not stock the MAP, but referred us elsewhere
7. Empire Pharmacy, Valletta
How it went: Served by a man in his late 30s. He mirrored my hushed tone, possibly to make me feel more comfortable, and redirected me straight away to two other pharmacies.
9. Krypton’s Pharmacy
How it went: Served by a woman in her late 20s. She immediately referred me to another pharmacy with very detailed instructions.
A gentleman behind me overheard her giving me directions and stepped in to tell me there is a closer pharmacy, yet she was very discreet and said “they might not stock the particular medicine she needs” as opposed to saying “morning-after pill”.
9. St Albert’s Pharmacy, Għargħur
How it went: Served by a woman in her early 30s, she directed me with instructions to the nearest open pharmacy.
Pharmacies that didn’t stock the MAP and didn’t redirect
10. Cosmed Pharmacy, Ħamrun
How it went: Served by a man in his late 40s who told me the pharmacy didn’t stock it in a very judgmental way. I spoke to him in a normal tone, but he dropped his volume as though he didn’t want other clients hearing our conversation.
So what does this all mean?
Basically, it’s not as bad as you think. It strongly seems to depend on who is behind the counter on the day, as well as the company’s overall approach.
However, there still seems to be a lack of a uniform procedure in all pharmacies, and if questions are meant to be asked to the client as part of the procedure, they need to be made consistent across the board.