Why I'm Fighting The Ultimate 'Sexist Surcharge'

22/08/2017 16:30
IAN HOOTON/SPL via Getty Images

Imagine the scenario: It's late at night and your partner wakes feeling desperately poorly with a headache.

You run downstairs, check the cupboard, and realise that you're out of painkillers.

Determined to help ease their suffering, you drive to the nearest shop, reach for the ibuprofen and take it to the till.

And, to your horror, when the cashier rings it through you're hit with a bill for £30.

'Surely', you say, 'That can't be right?'. You're certain you've seen the same product on sale for less than five pounds.

But it's late, you're desperate, and you grudgingly hand over the money.

If that sounds like a far fetched scenario, it's not.

It's one that's playing out here in the UK right now - not with ibuprofen, but with emergency contraception - aka, the 'morning after pill'.

There are chemists on the high street who are charging customers around £30 for a product called 'Levonelle'.

The key ingredient in it is a manufactured hormone called Levonorgestrel - a synthetic version of progesterone - and it works by preventing or delaying ovulation, and may also stop sperm from fertilising an egg or prevent the egg from implanting in the uterus.

It may sound like an expensive product to create. Yet... it isn't - it costs just a fraction of that £30 price-tag to produce.

Generic versions are available through all the national pharmaceutical wholesalers and, for me, a more reasonable price point is actually around £4.99.

But the mark-up - often a £20 profit margin - applied by some pharmacists is fierce and wholly detrimental to the consumer who needs it.

It's an exploitative and seemingly judgemental surcharge. And it's high time that changed.

So why do some chemists see fit to do it?

Following a recent wave of criticism from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) who have long sought to end what they label 'the ultimate sexist surcharge', and a host of MPs, the chemist Boots broke rank.

In a statement - which they later retracted and apologised for - Boots said they were reluctant to drop the price because they didn't want to be accused of, 'incentivising inappropriate use.'

It's fair to say that, from my point of view, those words were ill-judged in the extreme.

We have a situation here in Britain where women struggle to access the morning after pill, with one of the key barriers being price. How is that fair?

Bear in mind that it's recommended the pill is taken immediately after sex if other forms of protection have failed and is effective for up to 72 hours, meaning that time is of the essence.

Healthcare should be affordable, no matter what form it takes.

And there should be no place for moralising when it comes to drugs that benefit a wide number of people.

We always advise women in an emergency situation to go to their nearest pharmacy that day, rather than waiting a day to receive it from an online pharmacy.

The morning after pill can also be obtained free of charge from a family planning clinic.

However our belief is an advanced supply avoids the panic in the unlikely event of barrier method failure.

We also advise all patients that emergency contraception should not be used as a regular contraceptive method.

Let's stop prioritising profit over women's health and wellbeing.

Emergency contraception is available for £4.99 at www.chemist-4-u.com

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