Man in court for advertising sale of ‘morning after pill’
A MAN has appeared in front of Claremorris District Court facing charges relating to the possession and advertising of the ‘morning after pill’.
Steven Skillington of Knockaraha, Clogher, Claremorris was before the court, sitting in Castlebar, after the Irish Medicines Board, now known as the Health Product Regulation Authority was notified of an advertisement in a national magazine advertising the sale of Norlevo 1.5mg, an emergency contraception pill.
The father of two was charged with seven offences, five charges of keeping an unauthorised medical product for supply, one charge for advertising the product with a national magazine and one charge for advertising the product on his website, www.safesex.ie.
The court heard that on December 12, 2012, the board was informed that an advertisement from ‘www.safesex.ie’ advertising the ‘morning after pill’ had appeared in Hot Press magazine.
Giving evidence, Enforcement Officer with the Irish Medicines Board, Kieran Wright, said he discovered Mr Skillington was the owner of the website after he searched the domain name owner of the site. On December 14, officers from the board, along with members of An Garda Sióchána and customs attended Mr Skillington’s house, where the officers recovered ten packs of the pill, along with documentation of orders received for the medicinal product and orders from a Dutch company who sent the medicinal product to Skillington.
Also found, was email correspondence between Skillington and a Hot Press employee about the design of an advertisement for his website and its products, for inclusion in the magazine.
The court heard Mr Skillington was cooperative and told the officers that he set up the website in 2008 and sold condoms and blow-up dolls among other items.
Mr Skillingon told the officers that he got the drug from ‘Eropartner Distribution’ in Holland and that he had ‘zero’ medical knowledge of the product. He said he bought the drug for €6 and sold it for €14.99. He had bought 15 boxes in total and sold five of them.
Asked if he required any medical information from the people he sold the drug to, Mr Skillington said he did not, and that all he knew was if the customer was male or female.
Defending solicitor Evan O’Dwyer asked Mr Wright if Mr Skillington was put under any undue pressure on the day in question and asked Mr Wright if his client was offered a solicitor before answering questions. Mr Wright said Mr Skillington was asked if he wanted to talk to the officers and asked if he had any documents. Prosecuting barrister Eoin Garavan said the evidence provided by Mr Skillington was ‘quite voluntary’.
Clinical Assessment Manager Dr Elaine Breslin of the Health Product Regulation Authority (HPRA) told the court that the authority ensures the safety of medicines and medical devices before they receive a marketing authorisation.
Dr Breslin said she reviewed one of the ten boxes of Norlevo 1.5mg, which contain one dose of the ‘morning-after pill’ and found that the product had no authorisation code recognisable by the HPRA. Dr Breslin noted that both the packaging and information were both in Dutch and explained that products authorised for the Irish market required packaging and information leaflets to be in English or English and/or Irish.
The court heard that the drug is effective to prevent contraception only if it is taken within 72 hours, and is rendered ineffective after this time frame.
Dr Breslin explained to the court that the leaflet needs to explain the 72-hour timeframe and that when the drug is prescribed by a pharmacist this would be done following a consultation with the woman to see if she is suitable.
The doctor went on to say other precautions that would have to be taken into account when prescribing the drug would be if a woman has history of ectopic pregnancy, clotting, liver disease or if the woman is breast feeding.
She went on to detail some side effects that can occur with taking the drug - headaches, nausea and vomiting, among others. She also added that the Dutch pack which Mr Skillington was advertising was not intended for the Irish market.
The court heard that following speaking to members of the Irish Medicines Board and having the medicinal products confiscated, Mr Skillington contacted Hot Press and informed them of the issue and warned them that they may be contacted by the board. He added that there was ‘no such thing as bad publicity’.
Before the matter was adjourned, Group Sales Manager of Hot Press Patricia Murphy told the court that the magazine was unaware of regulations regarding the advertisement of medicinal products but said procedures have now been put in place.
Judge Mary Devins adjourned the matter to June 11 for further evidence.