The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) launched a campaign earlier in the year challenging the prices that Boots, one of the UK’s largest pharmacy chains, was charging consumers for emergency contraception. The result? Boots gave into the pressure and agreed to adjust its prices in line with other pharmacies across the country. However, five months later, Boots still haven’t made the changes, and it’s been reported that less than 3% of its stores have kept their promise to provide consumers with fair prices for the morning after pill.
After several weeks of controversy last year, Boots initially agreed that it’s prices on the generic brand of levonorgestrel, a commonly used type of emergency contraception, was unfair and it would reduce prices from £26.75 to £15.99 – in line with similar products on sale in pharmacies across the UK. But Boots have now confirmed that it’s only implemented the changed in a handful of its stores, and only 69 out of 2,500 branches have actually lowered their prices as promised.
BPAS said in a statement it was “absolutely scandalous that Boots have failed to deliver on the clear pledge they made to roll out cheaper emergency contraception in all their stores”. It added: “There can be absolutely no excuse for their pathetically slow pace of progress, other than the fact that they simply do not want to provide women with an affordable product.”
“ 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. 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 price tag.”
A letter signed by over 130 MP’s has expressed massive disappointment in the company, who have failed to keep their promise of cheaper prices nationally. They letter, written by shadow minister for public health Sharon Hodgson, highlighted the importance of providing affordable prices to consumers over the festive period.
Hodgson wrote, “Many women struggle to access contraceptive services and their usual family planning method. As a result, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, reports that they see an increased number of women facing an unplanned pregnancy following the festive season. Clearly, pharmacy access to emergency contraception is of an even greater importance in December and January.”
Boots defended the claims, saying that the delays in changing the prices were down to a “batch failure”. The company also pointed out that they offer a free NHS service in most of their branches, which allow customers to receive the medication for free providing they have a prescription from their GP or from a family planning clinic.
A spokesperson from Boots UK said “We remain committed to rolling this service out nationally. Unfortunately the manufacturer has experienced a batch failure due to quality issues which means that the stock we were expecting is not now available, and we are now waiting for a new batch to be produced.”
“We thank our customers for their continued patience and reassure them that we are doing all we can to roll this service out to all our stores as soon as possible In July we launched an extended over-the-counter EHC service which includes the generic levonorgestrel in 38 Boots stores in the East Midlands. We’re pleased to confirm that we have now been able to roll this out to a further 31 stores, taking the total number of Boots stores offering the service to 69.”