Boots under fire over price of morning-after pill

Boots has been criticised for failing to reduce the cost of the morning-after pill nationwide five months after it promised it would.

The high-street pharmacy chain has lowered the price of the contraception in less than 3 per cent of its stores. 

It had controversially announced earlier this year that it would not follow in the footsteps of other retailers by offering the product cheaper on the grounds that it encouraged women to have unprotected sex.

Then it bowed under pressure from campaigners and vowed it would slash its generic brand of levonorgestrel from £26.75 to £15.99 from October.

But now it has revealed that the price has still only been reduced in 69 of its 2,500 outlets nationwide. 

Boots has said the delay is due to low stock as a result of a ‘batch failure’ experienced by the manufacturer. 

Boots has attracted controversy for failing to reduce the cost of the morning-after pill nation-wide five months after it promised it would (stock image)

‘Absolutely scandalous’

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which led the initial campaign asking Boots to cut the price in line with other pharmacies, tweeted on Boxing Day that it was best to ‘give Boots a miss’. 

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) tweeted criticised Boots for its pricing 

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) tweeted criticised Boots for its pricing 

It has previously said the company had acted in an ‘absolutely scandalous’ way by missing its own deadline for providing the pills.

A spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘It really is extraordinary that having apologised for failing to reduce the price of emergency contraception in the summer and promising a cheaper version across all stores by October, we approach the New Year and still the cost has apparently not been cut in the majority of its outlets. 

‘This is a chain which puts women front and centre of its marketing campaigns, yet continues to fail them when it comes to affordable access to this essential medicine.

‘It is particularly noteworthy that over the same period it has managed to roll out a cheap online erectile dysfunction service for men, with starter packs for just £13. 

‘It would be great if they could show the same commitment for women’s health.

‎’We are surprised that Boots continues to cite supply issues as the reason for its failure to offer an affordable version when others are able to. 

‘Need can be greater at this time of year, and Boots is often the most accessible pharmacy for many women. We urge Boots to do the right thing and finally, make good on its word.’

Superdrug's generic Ezinelle contains levonorgestrel, the same ingredient in brand Levonelle

Superdrug’s generic Ezinelle contains levonorgestrel, the same ingredient in brand Levonelle

However, Boots has said it remains ‘committed to rolling this service out nationally’ and pointed out it offers a free NHS service for emergency hormone contraception in most stores. 

To be eligible for a free contraceptive pill, a customer needs a prescription from a GP or family planning clinic.

A Boots UK spokesperson said: ‘Unfortunately the manufacturer has experienced a batch failure due to quality issues which means that the stock we were expecting is not now available, and we are now waiting for a new batch to be produced. 

‘We thank our customers for their continued patience and reassure them that we are doing all we can to roll this service out to all our stores as soon as possible. 

‘In July we launched an extended over-the-counter EHC service which includes the generic levonorgestrel in 38 Boots stores in the East Midlands. We’re pleased to confirm that we have now been able to roll this out to a further 31 stores, taking the total number of Boots stores offering the service to 69.’


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.’  

Bullying accusations 

The row began in June when Superdrug announced it was reducing the cost of Ezinelle, its generic version of popular brand Levonelle, to 13.49.

The morning-after pill could then set a women back as much as £31.60 and health charities urged other big retailers to follow suit to make it more accessible to women in the UK, where it costs up to five times more compared to other areas of Europe.  

Last month 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.

BPAS had published the names of senior Boots staff on the internet and encouraged people to write to their personal email addresses via an online portal, and staff received 24,000 emails as a result.

Boots said the campaign caused ‘immense personal distress’ to its senior executives.