Women are being “ripped off” when purchasing emergency contraception in pharmacies that charge people up to £26 for the essential drug, says the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas).
The reproductive choice organisation has attacked UK pharmacies for charging inflated prices for the morning after pill, comparing it with the online pharmacy Dr Fox where a 1.5mg Levonorgestrel tablet is available to buy for just £3.
As well as calling for reductions in the cost of the drug, Bpas is also campaigning for progestogen-based emergency contraception to be reclassified as a General Sales List medication, meaning users can purchase the product off the shelf without a consultation.
The charity recommends that all women keep a supply of emergency contraception at home, adding that the availability of cheap drugs online does not negate the need for a more affordable product to be made available in mainstream pharmacies.
Bpas successfully campaigned for lower prices in 2017, with Superdrug and Tesco agreeing to reduce the price of the drug, but Boots refused stating that the pill “polarises public opinion” and that they “receive frequent contact from individuals who voice their disapproval of the fact that the company chooses to provide this service.”
According to the charity, only a third of women use emergency contraception after unprotected sex.
“While emergency contraception is not a silver bullet to unwanted pregnancy, it is a significantly under-utilised resource,” it said.
Bpas spokeswoman Clare Murphy said: “The sale of the morning-after pill for £3 illustrates just how cheap this medication is, but women are still having to pay vastly over the odds [for it] at their time of need.
”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 added: ”There is simply no reason why we should restrict access in the way we do when the stakes for women are so high - women know when they need it and should be trusted to use it.“
Boots and the Department for Health have both been approached for comment.