Boots has reduced the price of the morning-after pill in all its UK stores after pressure from campaigners.
The move was described as a ‘good news’ for British women who were paying up to five times as much for the emergency contraception as their European peers.
The high-street pharmacy chain had come under fire for failing to reduce the £26.75 cost of its generic brand, levonorgestrel, nationwide to £15.99 five months after it promised it would.
It emerged last month that it had lowered the price in less than 3 per cent of its stores, with the delay blamed on low stock as a result of a manufacturer’s ‘batch failure’.
But despite welcoming the price reduction, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) argued that more should be done to make access to emergency contraception swift and affordable.
Boots has reduced the price of its generic version of the morning-after pill from £26.75 to £15.99 in all its UK stores after pressure from campaigners (stock image)
A spokesperson for the service, a leading provider of abortion in the UK, said: ‘We are delighted that Boots has finally followed many other retailers and is now selling emergency contraception for £15.99, almost a year after we first wrote to them asking for a reduction in the inflated prices. This is good news for women.’
‘However, even at these significantly lower prices, emergency contraception remains more expensive in the UK than many other European countries, and is still twice the price of what women in France are charged.
‘We believe the mandatory consultation women must undergo, for which there is no clinical justification, remains a key barrier to women accessing this extremely safe medication and is often one of the reasons given for the price remaining comparatively high.’
Superdrug’s generic Ezinelle contains levonorgestrel, the same ingredient in brand Levonelle
RISKS OF MAKING THE DRUG CHEAPER
Experts have warned that the powerful hormone pill brings a risk of suffering a dangerous ectopic pregnancy, which occurs in around 12,000 pregnancies a year.
The Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Professor Liam Donaldson, ordered manufacturers to change the wording of patient information leaflets to make clear the potential risk.
Critics also say its wider availability could make unsafe sex more common, at a time when certain STIs are on the up.
The Mail’s Dr Max Pemberton has warned that the morning-after pill is ‘not a harmless drug’.
He said: ‘When it comes to the morning-after pill, having a levelheaded debate seems almost impossible.
‘I think the problem is that this medication has become too politicised.
‘I fear that we’ve lost sight of the fact that this is not a harmless drug. Like all medications, it can have serious side-effects and shouldn’t be handed out freely.
‘While we become increasingly cautious around the prescription of some drugs, groups such as the BPAS would have us dish out morning-after pills like Smarties.’
The controversy began when BPAS wrote to major retailers in spring last year asking them to offer a more affordable product.
In June Superdrug agreed to sell its own brand of the morning after pill, called Ezinelle, for £13.49 – half of what other branded emergency contraceptives were on the shelves for.
But Boots refused to follow suit and reduce the price tag for brand, issuing a statement to say it did not want to be accused of ‘incentivizing inappropriate use’ of the product.
In November, more than 130 MPs yesterday wrote to Boots’ UK managing director Elizabeth Fagan to demand the £15.99 version is rolled out immediately.
Senior Labour figures accused the company of failing to uphold women’s ‘reproductive rights’ by supplying cheap contraceptive pills in all its stores.
However, campaigners were accused of a bullying campaign against Boots after it pleaded for them to stop harassing its senior executives.
At the peak of the row in August Boots even issued legal warnings to BPAS accusing it of encouraging harassment of it senior executives.
Eventually, Boots bowed under the pressure and promised to reduce the cost from October – but BPAS called it ‘absolutely scandalous’ when this failed to happen.
A spokeswoman for Boots said: ‘We’d like to thank our customers for their patience. It was always our intention to ensure that when we launched this service it was done well, and with sufficient, sustainable supply so that women would be able to access it both now and in the future.’