Superdrug is selling the morning after pill over-the-counter at ‘half the price’ of rival brands.
The decision by Superdrug to stock a generic emergency contraceptive has been welcomed by reproductive rights campaigners. However, it has been criticised by conservative groups who say the cut-price drug could put vulnerable young women “at risk”.
Ezinelle, which contains the hormone levonorgestrel and prevents pregnancy by delaying the ovaries from releasing an egg, will be sold for £13.49. This is significantly less than the £25 to £30 chemists charge for pills sold under other names. Those too, contain the same active ingredient, such as Levonelle.
“We are delighted Superdrug has taken this trailblazing step, and look forward to other major retailers following its lead,” said Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas).
“We know the high cost of emergency contraception can be a major barrier to women accessing it when their regular method fails. Superdrug has illustrated that it’s perfectly possible to sell this safe and effective medication to women at a significantly more affordable price than is currently on offer.
“There is frankly now no excuse for others not to do the same. We will keep campaigning on this issue until all retailers do the right thing and offer women a fairly priced product, as Superdrug is doing today”.
The pill is already available for free via GPs, sexual health clinics and at pharmacies in some NHS regions.
The dose sold by Superdrug can halt unwanted pregnancies up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.
However, that is less than brands such as EllaOne, which can be taken up to five days later.
Risk of being misused
Bpas, the UK’s largest provider of abortion services, has campaigned against the high price of the morning after pill.
They have said it costs more in the UK than in most other European countries such as France, where it costs around €7 (£6), and Portugal, where it is around €12.50 (£11).
Norman Wells, a spokesperson for the Family Education Trust, said the availability of a low-cost morning after pill could increase the risk of it being “misused or overused”.
The high price of the morning after pill in the UK is set deliberately to prevent women from taking it too often, according to a 2003 report in the Pharmaceutical Journal.
“Levonelle costs £24 from pharmacies. The price has been set, in part, to ensure that [emergency hormonal contraception] is not used as a regular method of contraception,” an expert from Levonelle said.