Manufacturers of some of the most common morning after pills have been criticised after hiking the price by 151 per cent.
Industry data shows the cost of Levonorgestrel has risen every month for the past year, in a move women’s health campaigners described as “concerning”.
Levonorgestrel is sold under a number of different brand names, including Plan B, Ezinelle, Emerres, Levonelle and Consilient and prevents pregnancy by delaying the ovaries from releasing an egg. It is only useful within 120 hours as an emergency birth control.
Price increases every month
In January 2017 the pill was priced to retailers at just £2.87, and by December 2017 it was up to £4.33.
Superdrug sell Ezinelle for £13.49, while Lloyds Pharmacy sells Consilient for £24.99. Industry experts say they are concerned the hiked cost may mean retailers are forced to increase their already inflated prices.
Online pharmacy Chemist-4-U.com, which offers a generic version of a branded version of the pill for £7.99 – the cheapest on the market – criticised the price hike.
Pharmacist Shamir Patel said: “These are inexpensive products to create, and yet they carry very large mark-ups when bought over the counter. Women should not be priced out of being able to buy emergency contraception, yet that is the risk that this price hike carries.
“Of course, anyone using the morning after pill should do so knowing all the facts and seek expert advice when possible. But it is unfair that in Britain the price of the pill is a barrier to accessing it. Women should not fear having to pay what would seem an exploitative amount for it.”
Boots finally offered discount
Last month, Boots finally reduced the cost of their morning after pills in stores – six months after pledging to do so. The high-street chain was criticised in July last year after it broke rank amid criticism from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and numerous MPs at the high charges imposed by major retailers for contraception.
Boots compounded criticism of its refusal to reduce prices when it attempted to defend itself. The company claimed it did not want to be accused of “incentivising inappropriate use”, by significantly by offering a price cut. But it was forced to issue an apology over claims of “sexist” moralising, and promised to examine sourcing less expensive emergency contraception.
The chemist followed Tesco and Superdrug’s lead on discounting the price of Levonorgestrel from £26.75 to £15.99.
High street prices for emergency contraception range from around £13.49 to £30. In other parts of Europe, emergency contraception can be bought for as little as £5.50. Cheaper generic versions are available to all retailers through national pharmaceutical wholesalers. The morning after pill is available for free from a variety of sources including GP surgeries, sexual health clinics and most NHS walk-in centres.
A spokesperson for BPAS said: “It’s concerning to see the wholesale pries of levonorgestrel emergency contraception increase in this way, although it is clear that pharmacies are still able to enjoy a healthy mark-up on the products when they sell them on to women, largely on the basis that a consultation is provided before sale.
“We know there is no clinical justification for this consultation and ultimately would like to see emergency contraception sold straight from the shelf.”
This article originally appeared on our sister title, iNews