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Contraceptive agents

MPs question why Boots has failed to supply cheaper morning after pill

A letter, from shadow minister for public health Sharon Hodgson and signed by 130 MPs, urges Boots to honour its promise to cut the price of generic emergency hormonal contraception.

A total of 130 Labour MPs have signed a letter to high street pharmacist Boots, asking why the company has not met its pledge to cut the price of emergency contraception.

The letter, from shadow minister for public health Sharon Hodgson, calls on Boots to honour its promise to cut the price of generic emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) to follow the lead set by supermarkets and other multiple chains.

Boots announced in August 2017 that it would sell a cheaper morning after pill after initially refusing to cut the price of emergency contraception.

A campaign by pregnancy charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) had persuaded many of the large pharmacy chains and supermarkets to lower their prices for the morning after pill from £25 or more to £13.50, but Boots had refused to follow suit, saying it did not want to “incentivise inappropriate use” of emergency contraception, or “provoke complaints” from people opposed to the product.

But following further pressure Boots announced in August 2017 that it had begun selling a generic EHC in 38 of its 2,500 stores for £15.99, and it said the drug would be available in all its 2,500 stores from October 2017.

In October 2017, Boots blamed supply chain delays for the fact that it had only rolled out the affordable morning after pill alternative to 69 of its stores.

MPs’ concerns

The MPs’ letter said: “Given that the vast majority of your competitors have been offering women a more affordable product for a number of months, it is difficult to understand why Boots — our leading high street pharmacy, who state they have a commitment to women’s health and wellbeing — have been unable to do so.

“We are deeply concerned that Boots are either unable or unwilling to deliver on your pledge. If you are, as you state, experiencing difficulties sourcing a new generic emergency contraceptive, we ask that you in the meantime consider reducing the price of the generic EHC that you currently stock.”

BPAS director of external affairs, Clare Murphy, described Boots’ slow progress as “scandalous”.

“If Boots cannot ‘source’ a new version of emergency contraception to sell at a lower price, then they should do the right thing and cut the price of the version they currently have in stock,” she said.

“Regardless of ‘supply chain delays’, affordable emergency contraception is entirely within their gift to give right now — and every day they refuse to do so, more women are being ripped off, or risking an unplanned pregnancy because they cannot afford Boots’ inflated pricetag.”

Boots sells the Levonelle brand of EHC for £28.25 and its own brand for £26.75.

The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached Boots for a response.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203954

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