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Boots “ends grossly sexist surcharge” and lowers the price of emergency contraception following years of campaigning by charities and MPs

  • After many years of pressure, the pharmacy chain Boots is now selling emergency hormonal contraception for £10 – the most affordable on the High Street
  • In 2017, the high-street giant provoked uproar after refusing to lower the cost on the basis that “incentivise inappropriate use.”
  • In November 2021, campaigners called on Boots to permanently retain a “Black Friday” deal price , but the chain refused.
  • Following a pricing review, Boots wrote to Dame Diana Johnson, who has led calls from Labour MPs on this issue, the Labour MP to confirm pharmacy chain will sell generic emergency contraception for £10 – now the lowest of all major high street pharmacy chains
  • The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, has said that “the end of this grossly sexist surcharge is a victory for women.”

In response to calls from campaigners, healthcare charities, and MPs led by Dame Diana Johnson, the high-street giant Boots has now reduced the cost of emergency hormonal contraception across its stores and online. In a letter to Dame Diana Johnson MP, Sebastian James, Managing Director for Boots UK & ROI, stated that the pharmacy chain will sell generic emergency contraception for £10 – now the lowest of all major high street pharmacy chains - as of this week, and that the pricing for branded products will also be reduced in line with other high street retailers. 

The charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS , launched the campaign for affordable, accessible contraception in 2016. In 2017, 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, eventually reducing the price to £15.99 in 2018.

In November 2021, the high-street giant ran a 50% “Black Friday” discount on emergency hormonal contraception which meant that women can purchase the generic version Levonorgestrel 1500mcg for £8 from their website. The discount Boots offered, and the fact that the same medication is available from other online retailers for less than £4, demonstrated the significant mark-up imposed on this essential medication.

Campaigners, healthcare bodies, and parliamentarians, led by Dame Diana Johnson MP, called on Boots to permanently lower the price beyond the “Black Friday” deal. Following a pricing review in January, Boots confirmed in a letter to Dame Johnson dated 31st January that they have reduced the price of their Morning After Pill service in stores and online this week.

 

Commenting, Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of BPAS, said:

“We are delighted that Boots are doing the right thing by women and providing emergency contraception at a significantly more affordable price, and we applaud their decision. The end of the grossly sexist surcharge on emergency contraception, involving a huge mark up on a product only women need, is a victory.

"Since 2016, we have been calling on high street pharmacies to support the health and wellbeing of women by reducing the cost of EC. This essential medication can give women a second-chance at avoiding unplanned pregnancy, yet the high-cost and clinically unnecessary requirement for a mandatory consultation can act as barriers that prevent women accessing emergency contraception when needed. Now that the price has been reduced, we want to see emergency contraception taken out from behind the pharmacy counter and placed directly on the shelves where it belongs.”  

 

Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson DBE MP, Labour Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull North

“I am very pleased that following a review into the pricing of the Morning After Pill service, and after a letter from the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party, Boots have taken the decision to reduce the price of this service from £15.99 to £10.00. Emergency contraception is a vital component of women’s healthcare and provides a safety net for women by preventing unwanted pregnancies.

“As the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sexual and Reproductive Health (APPG FSRH), which I Chair, found in 2020, women in England are facing increasing difficulty accessing contraception through their GPs and through sexual health services. Over the counter contraception is increasingly the only option women have access to. This is why it is such an important step that Boots have decided to scrap the sexist surcharge, which acted as another barrier to women accessing healthcare. It is critical that any obstacles to accessing contraception are addressed and that the sexual and reproductive health of women is protected.”

 

Rose Stokes, the journalist who brought Boots’ “Black Friday” deal to widespread attention, said: 

“The reduction of the price of this essential medicine will help thousands of people to avoid unplanned pregnancies and is a step in the right direction towards closing the gender health gap. Although we still have a long way to go in that respect, the response from Boots to our campaign is a welcome move that will change the lives of many.”

 

ENDS

For further information, please contact Katherine O’Brien, BPAS Associate Director of Campaigns and Communications, on katherine.o’brien@bpas.org or 07881 265276.

About BPAS

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/

In 2021, BPAS launched BPAS Fertility, England's first not-for-profit fertility service, to provide ethical, evidence-based, person-centred care that supports patients. We provide a safe, high-quality, and accessible service, without profiteering from patients. Our service gives those ineligible for NHS funding an affordable option to access the care they need.