The decision of an online pharmacy to offer emergency contraception at a significantly reduced cost has prompted calls on other pharmacies to reduce their prices.
In an October 26 press release, Dr Fox Online Pharmacy said it had slashed the price of levonorgestrel 1.5mg to £3 in anticipation of a demand spike over Christmas.
Boots charges £15.99 for generic levonorgestrel without a prescription, while Superdrug charges £13.49. Branded Levonelle can cost up to £26 in some pharmacies.
Dr Fox said women who urgently need emergency hormonal contraception, such as after a condom has failed, should contact their GP, sexual health clinic or local pharmacy.
However, the Bristol-based company also said women who are not currently in need of EHC may benefit from ordering the medication online as “having it already available at home or when travelling abroad means there is no delay”.
The online pharmacy provides levonorgestrel and ellaOne to women aged 18-54 following an online consultation with a GP.
Dr Fox Pharmacy medical director Dr Tony Steele said: “If we can encourage women to think ahead, they can now obtain the morning after pill to keep at home, ready if they need it, at this highly competitive price.”
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service, a reproductive health charity, agreed that it is beneficial for women to keep a supply of EHC at home but said this “does not reduce the need for a more affordable product to be made available to women to buy straight from the shelf of a pharmacy when they need it”.
Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at Bpas, said the move by Dr Fox “illustrates just how cheap this medication is” and said “women are still having to pay vastly over the odds for this pill at their time of need”.
Bpas called for progestogen-based EHC to be reclassified as a GSL medicine, arguing: “The mandatory consultation serves little clinical purpose, and can act as a barrier to access.”
“The progestogen pill is extremely safe, can be used as often as needed, and gives women a second chance of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy that may risk their physical and mental health,” Ms Murphy said, adding that women “know when they need it and should be trusted to use it”.