- Campaigners and Labour MPs are urging Boots to not double to cost of emergency contraception once their current “Black Friday” weekend offer expires
- Currently, the high-street giant has a 50% discount on emergency hormonal contraception which means that women can purchase the generic version Levonorgestrel 1500mcg for £8 from their website. However, when this expires, the price is set to increase to £15.99.
- Despite pharmacies reducing the price of generic emergency contraception in 2017, there continues to be a significant mark-up on this medication across all the major retailers. The same medication is available from online pharmacy Chemist4You for £3.49.
- A coalition of Labour MPs, led by Diana Johnson MP, has today written to Sebastian James, Managing Director of Boots UK, imploring Boots to “lead the way on this issue and demonstrate a clear commitment to improving women’s reproductive health and wellbeing.”
- The charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, has launched an online campaign calling on Boots to “do the right thing” and remove financial barriers to this essential medication.
Campaigners and Labour MPs are urging Boots to not double to price of emergency contraception when their “Black Friday” discount expires. The high-street giant is currently offering 50%-off emergency hormonal contraception, which means that currently women are able to purchase the generic version Levonorgestrel for £8 from their website. However, when the discount expires, the price is set to return to £15.99.
Emergency contraception is available for free from GPs and sexual health clinics, but for many women this is not a practical option. Appointments can be hard to obtain, particularly during the pandemic, and services increasingly restricted amid cuts to public spending. As a result, pharmacy provision will be many women's only option to access this important method of back-up contraception when their usual method fails. The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, has warned that the high cost of emergency contraception can be a major barrier to women accessing it when their regular method fails, leading to unplanned and unwanted pregnancies.
Across all the major high-street pharmacy chains, generic contraception is sold at a significant mark-up. The discount Boots are offering, and the fact that the same medication is available from other online retailers for less than £4, demonstrates that lowering the cost is entirely possible.
In 2017, following a BPAS campaign, Superdrug reduced the price of emergency contraception, and other high-street pharmacies followed. Boots, however, initially refused to lower the cost because they believed doing so would “encourage inappropriate use”, and only changed their position after an intervention by Labour MPs.
Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of BPAS, said:
“At BPAS, we regularly see women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy who were deterred from using emergency contraception because of the obstacles to access, including the price.
“The current offer from Boots, and the fact a much smaller online retailer is able to sell the same medication for less than £4, shows that it is entirely possible for big pharmacy chains to make emergency contraception much more affordable.
“It is wrong that a woman in need of emergency contraception this time next week will be forced to pay double the price compared with a woman who needs this medication today. This essential medication should be available, affordable, and accessible for everyone who needs it. We urge Boots to do the right thing and not double the cost once their arbitrary “Black Friday” discount expires.”
Dame Diana Johnson MP said:
"It is extremely disappointing that high-street giants continue to impose a sexist surcharge on emergency contraception. Boots has an opportunity to lead the way and demonstrate a clear commitment to improving women’s reproductive health and wellbeing. Alongside the women of the Parliamentary Labour Party, I implore Boots to do so.”
Rose Stokes, the journalist who exposed Boots’ “Black Friday” deal, said:
"For far too long, Boots and other pharmacies have been profiteering from women in need by charging an over-inflated price for basic healthcare. If Boots can afford to offer emergency contraception for half the price it currently charges on Black Friday, then it can do the same every other day of the year. There is simply no moral justification for returning to the original price. Women and those with wombs deserve much better and Boots should do the right thing."
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BPAS is a charity that sees over 100,000 women a year for reproductive healthcare services including pregnancy counselling, abortion care, miscarriage management and contraception at clinics across Great Britain. It supports and advocates for reproductive choice. BPAS also runs the Centre for Reproductive Research and Communication, which seeks to develop and deliver a research agenda that furthers women’s access to evidence-based reproductive healthcare, driven by an understanding of women’s perspectives and needs. You can find out more here: https://www.bpas.org/get-involved/centre-for-reproductive-research-communication/
Later in 2021, BPAS will launch England's first not-for-profit fertility service, to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We will provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service, without profiteering from patients. Our service will give those ineligible for NHS funding an affordable option to access the care they need.