The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has welcomed the end of the “grossly sexist surcharge”.
In a letter written to Dame Diana Johnson – the Labour MP who has led calls from the party on this issue – Boots’ managing director Sebastian James confirmed that the pharmacy will now sell the generic contraception for £10, making it the most affordable option on the high street.
The decision comes after many years of pressure from campaigners and groups including the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), who launched a campaign in 2016 calling for affordable, accessible contraception.
In the following year, Superdrug and many other high street pharmacies lowered their prices, but Boots initially refused, provoking uproar by saying that making the contraception cheaper could “incentivise inappropriate use”.
The pharmacy later changed its position following an intervention from Labour MPs and lowered the price of its generic pill to £15.99, but faced further criticism in 2021 for including its contraceptive products in a 50% Black Friday deal – a move campaigners said demonstrated the significant mark-up on the product. This led to fresh calls to reduce the price for good, which has resulted in this week’s decision.
Commenting on the move, BPAS’ chief executive Clare Murphy said they were “delighted” to see the pharmacy doing “the right thing by women”.
“The end of the grossly sexist surcharge on emergency contraception, involving a huge mark up on a product only women need, is a victory,” she said. “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.”
Murphy added: “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.”
Emergency contraception remains free on the NHS via sexual health clinics and most walk-in centres, but the option to buy emergency contraception makes it more accessible for women who are unable to make a same-day appointment due to work or childcare responsibilities.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Boots UK said: “As the UK’s leading healthcare retailer, we have an important role in ensuring women’s health products and services are accessible, whilst continuing to maintain our expert level of care.
“In line with our commitment to help more women access our Morning After Pill service with ease and convenience, from 1 February we [have reduced] the price of this service. Prices for the service, which includes expert consultation and advice, will start from £10.”
It continued: “Our priority remains offering the highest standard of care to women, and we will continue to provide our expert pharmacy consultation and advice as an integral part of this service to support women in making the right choice for them.
“The Morning After Pill remains free on the NHS and in areas where a CCG has commissioned Boots to provide a Morning After Pill service on behalf of the NHS in England, the service is free. We welcome further commissioning of this service across more areas of England and stand ready to help.”
For more information on emergency contraception, including how and where to access it, you can check out the NHS website.