Italian pharmacists likely to defy EU's ruling on over the counter morning-after pill

Powerful Catholic groups have decried the European Medicines Agency's call to make EllaOne available without a prescription

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Italy’s pharmacists are expected to flout an EU call to make the latest emergency contraceptive pill available to women without the need for a prescription.

The European Medicines Agency has declared that the EllaOne pill, which can be taken up to five days after intercourse to prevent pregnancy, is safe and should be made available over the counter from February. But already powerful Catholic pharmacists and doctors groups have decried EMA’s move – making it likely that Italy will again be out of step with the rest of Europe in terms of women’s reproductive rights.

Pietro Uroda, president of the Union of Catholic Italian Pharmacists, said the pill should not be on sale because it was effectively designed to cause abortion. “It’s shameful. It prevents the conceived child being hosted in the womb. We are taking legal action if they go ahead,” he told La Repubblica.

Most legal and medical authorities state that emergency contraception prevents pregnancy and is not abortion. Nonetheless, Filippo Boscia, president of the Association of Catholic Doctors, has called on the Italian government and state medicines agency Aifa to ban over-the-counter use of the pill, which can be taken up 120 hours after sex, compared with the 72-hour limit of the older emergency contraceptive Levonelle.