UK pharmacy cuts contraceptive price after row over 'sexist surcharge'

by Belinda Goldsmith | @BeeGoldsmith | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 1 September 2017 17:03 GMT

Pedestrians walk past a Boots branch in Leicester, central England, in this June 9, 2008, archive photo. REUTERS/Darren Staples

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Morning after pills are available without a prescription in most EU countries but were selling for up to five times more in Britain than elsewhere in Europe

LONDON, Sept 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Top British pharmacy Boots has cut the price of 'morning after' emergency contraceptive pills after coming under fire for refusing to reduce the cost of the medicine, initially saying it might be "misused or overused".

Morning after pills, which are most effective when taken in the first few hours after unprotected sex, are available without a prescription in most European Union countries but were selling for up to five times more in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.

The availability of the pills reflects recommendations from the European Medicines Agency, which says they can be used safely without a doctor's input and that removing the need for a prescription speeds access to the medicine.

A Boots spokeswoman said the pharmacy was now offering a new, less expensive generic version of the pill at about half the price.

"We're committed to listening to our customers on this important matter," the spokeswoman said in a statement.

Boots came under fire in July after healthcare charity British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which provides abortion care services, urged the pharmacy to stop charging nearly 30 pounds ($39) for the pill, calling it prejudicial.

Rival pharmacy Superdrug and supermarket chain Tesco had recently halved the cost of the pill to about 13.50 pounds.

Several female members of parliament also weighed in on the controversy, with some urging the public to boycott Boots.

BPAS welcomed Boots' decision on Friday to lower the price.

"We are pleased to see that in future Boots will be providing a cheaper emergency contraceptive product across its stores nationwide," BPAS Director of External Affairs Clare Murphy said in a statement.

($1 = 0.7711 pounds)

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit