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Boots reject calls from MPs and campaigners to retain a fairer price for emergency contraception

Some women now charged nearly £60 for morning after pills by Boots – BPAS advises women to stock up from fairer providers in advance of need.

  • The pharmacy chain Boots has rejected calls from MPs, campaigners, and women’s healthcare bodies to retain a fairer price for emergency contraception
  • Boots ran a 'Black Friday' 50% discount on emergency hormonal contraception, allowing women to purchase the generic version Levonorgestrel 1500mcg for £8 from their website. However, the price has now increased back to £15.99.
  • Women needing levonorgestrel EC who have a BMI of over 26 or weigh more than 11 stone, and those on certain medications, must purchase a double dose pack which costs £31.98 for the generic and £56.50 for the branded version, Levonelle.
  • The high-street giant stated that “it is not usually possible to sustain significant discounts in the long term.” However, the type of generic medication which Boots are now pricing at £15.99 is available from online pharmacy Chemist4You for £3.49, while a 2-pack of Levonelle is available from Dr Fox for £16.

Responding to Boots' decision:

  • Dame Diana Johnson MP, who co-ordinated a letter from Labour MPs to Boots’ Managing Director, said it was “deeply disappointing.” The group of MPs have yet to receive a response from Boots.
  • The charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, has warned that the high cost of emergency contraception can lead to unwanted pregnancies, and campaigner Rose Stokes called the price increase "truly shocking."
  • The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said the cost of emergency contraception “exposes the inequalities which women and girls face in access to healthcare.”
  • As it may be harder to access sexual health services over the forthcoming festive period, BPAS urges women to obtain emergency contraception in advance of need from online providers offering fairer prices in order to avoid paying eye-watering sums in an emergency

The high street pharmacy Boots has this week refused to retain a fairer price for emergency contraception, doubling the cost overnight, despite calls from MPs, women’s health groups, and campaigners for the high-street giant to extend their 'Black Friday' discount on the medication.

Across all the major high-street pharmacies, generic contraception is sold at a significant mark-up. The small online pharmacy, Chemist4U, provides the same medication which Boots are selling for £15.99 for £3.49.

In 2017, Boots caused a public outcry after refusing to lower the cost of emergency contraception due to concerns that doing so would “incentivise inappropriate use.” The women’s healthcare charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service has said that Boots have now missed “the opportunity to show a commitment to the reproductive wellbeing of the communities they serve” and Labour MP Dame Diana Johnson has requested a meeting with the Managing Director, Sebastian James.

Clare Murphy, Chief Executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, BPAS, said:

“We are disappointed but not surprised by Boots’ decision to revert back to these high prices. Given the fact that much smaller retailers provide the same medication for less than a third than that charged by this high-street giant, there is absolutely no justification for this price increase. At BPAS, we see women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy because of barriers to emergency contraception, including the cost. Boots had the opportunity to show a commitment to the reproductive wellbeing of the communities they serve, but sadly this has not been taken.

"Now that Boots have doubled the price of emergency contraception, BPAS will double our efforts to make this medication accessible for all those who need it, all year round. In the meantime, given that the festive period and NHS contraceptive services may be harder to access, we urge women to look at obtaining an advance supply of emergency contraception, so they are not forced to pay eye-watering sums in an emergency.”

Dame Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull North and co-ordinator of the Women’s Parliamentary Labour Party letter to Boots, said:

“It’s deeply disappointing to see Boots raise the price of emergency contraception today. In a time when NHS services are being cut across the country, women desperately need access to affordable contraceptive healthcare.

“My colleagues and I are yet to receive a response from Boots, despite the clear public interest in the price of emergency contraception. We would be more than happy to meet with the Managing Director of Boots to discuss the needs of women and the impact of this decision, and I hope that he will be responding to our letter as a matter of urgency.”

Rose Stokes, the campaigner and journalist who uncovered Boots’ “Black Friday” offer on emergency contraception, said:

"To see Boots double the price of emergency contraception is truly shocking. They have an opportunity to lead the high street towards better healthcare for women and yet, so far they have declined to do so. Until women can access this critical medicine at a fair and reasonable price, many people will suffer the consequences. There is no moral justification to keep profiteering from women's stress. Boots has a big opportunity here - I hope they take it."

Dr Jo Mountfield, Vice President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:

“The cost of emergency contraception is a barrier which many people face. No one should be forced to pay marked-up prices for medication that allows them to safely manage their reproductive and sexual health as well as prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“Emergency contraception should be accessible and affordable. This cost exposes the inequalities which women and girls face in access to healthcare.

“Boots committing to a permanent lower cost would be a positive step towards what should already be a reality – women and girls having full access to free emergency contraception at the time and place of need.”

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/

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.