Labour MPs have accused Boots of breaking its promise to cut the price of emergency contraception for women.
More than 130 members have written to the pharmacy giant’s managing director to ask why it has not yet provided the morning after pill at a cheaper rate in all of its stores, despite promising it would do so.
The letter, penned by shadow public health minister Sharon Hodgson, said Boots had “failed to live up to this clear commitment” by rolling out the cheaper alternative in just 69 of its 2,500 branches.
The firm promised in July that prices would be dropped in every shop by October 2017.
It goes on: “Given that the vast majority of your competitors have been offering women a more affordable product for a number of months, it is difficult to understand why Boots - our leading high street pharmacy, who states they have a commitment to women’s health and well-being have been unable to do so.
“As you are undoubtedly aware, over the Christmas period many women struggle to access contraceptive services and their usual family planning method. As a result, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, reports that they see an increased number of women facing an unplanned pregnancy following the festive season.
“Clearly, pharmacy access to emergency contraception is of an even greater importance in December and January - which we are fast approaching.”
Boots has blamed problems with its supply chain for the delays, but campaigners said it was time for the firm to take action and reduce the price of its current stock if cheaper alternatives could not be sourced.
According to its website, prices start from £26.75 “but may vary”.
A spokesperson for Boots said it “firmly believed in the right of all women” to access the service, which is available free on the NHS in most of its stores.
“We remain committed to rolling this service out nationally,” they added.
“Unfortunately the manufacturer has experienced a batch failure due to quality issues which means that the stock we were expecting is not now available, and we are now waiting for a new batch to be produced. We thank our customers for their continued patience and reassure them that we are doing all we can to roll this service out to all our stores as soon as possible.
“In July we launched an extended over-the-counter Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) service which includes the generic levonorgestrel (priced at £15.99) in 38 Boots stores in the East Midlands. We’re pleased to confirm that we have now been able to roll this out to a further 31 stores; taking the total number of Boots stores offering the service to 69.”
The letter in full:
We write further to our letter of 21st July 2017 to express our disappointment at Boots’ failure to provide women with affordable emergency contraception as promised.
We welcomed Boots’ announcement on 21st July that you would be looking to source less expensive emergency hormonal contraception medicines for your customers, and your statement on 31st August that you had been “working hard with the manufacturer to increase supply” of a cheaper alternative and as a result would be “able to offer this across all stores in October 2017,” We were dismayed, therefore, to learn that you have failed to live up to this clear commitment to women.
We understand that, in response to media requests, Boots issued a statement on 31st October in which you cited “supply chain delays” as the reason for your inability to roll out the affordable alternative across your nearly 2,500 stores as promised. In August you said the cheaper pill was available in 38 stores and 69 stores according to your latest statement this week. Yet, there is no clear commitment for the cheaper product to be available across all of your stores.
Given that the vast majority of your competitors have been offering women a more affordable product for a number of months, it is difficult to understand why Boots -our leading high street pharmacy, who states they have a commitment to women’s health and wellbeing have been unable to do so.
As you are undoubtedly aware, over the Christmas period many women struggle to access contraceptive services and their usual family planning method. As a result, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, reports that they see an increased number of women facing an unplanned pregnancy following the festive season.
Clearly, pharmacy access to emergency contraception is of an even greater importance in December and January - which we are fast approaching.
We are deeply concerned that Boots are either unable or unwilling to deliver on your pledge. If you are as you state, experiencing difficulties sourcing a new generic emergency contraceptive, we ask that you in the meantime consider reducing the price of the generic EHC that you currently stock.
Mrs Sharon Hodgson MP
Member of Parliament for Washington & Sunderland West Shadow Minister for Public Health
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