Vicky Spratt | Deputy Editor | Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Superdrug Just Halved The Cost Of The Morning After Pill

Superdrug Just Halved The Cost Of The Morning After Pill

The Debrief: Until now women in Britain were paying up to five times more for emergency contraception than elsewhere in Europe

In Spring, last year research revealed that women in Britain were paying up to five times more for emergency contraception than women elsewhere in Europe. There were also calls from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service for the government to change the law so that women did not have to see a pharmacist when buying the pill over the counter.

Today, Superdrug has announced that they are launching their own brand of emergency hormonal contraception which can be bought at half the cost of the average branded ‘morning-after pill’ in their stores. It will be available for £13.49.

As The Times reported at the time the average cost of the morning-after pill in Britain is £28, while in France it is £5.40 and in Germany, it’s £12.50. Ireland was the only place where women paid more than the UK to access the medication. If you can’t get an appointment with your GP or at a sexual health centre, because of family or work commitments, a pharmacy may be your only option. Once there, you're asked to fork out nearly 30 quid. This is not an insignificant amount of money and, for some women, may not be affordable at all.

As anyone who has ever bought the morning-after pill knows it’s not just the cost of emergency contraception that’s problematic. It’s the process by which you buy it. You have to fill out a tick box form before you get taken into a pokey little room, near the pharmacy counter, where you’re asked about your sex life in reasonably forensic detail. It’s not uncommon to have to loiter by the lube as you wait to have your consultation and the whole thing feels like a humiliating and totally unnecessary big old show and tell. I recall buying it in a pharmacy in Westminster once, at the age of 20. I quietly asked the two women at the counter for it and one of them shouted loudly ‘I hope he was worth it’. The pharmacy was near my work. Of course, that’s not supposed to happen but the point is that the whole procedure which surrounds buying the morning-after pill can make women feel like they’ve done something wrong - there is an implied need for secrecy which feels unnecessary when other countries allow women to buy it off the shelf. In the United States, Scandinavia and France women are not subjected to this, emergency hormonal contraception is available on store shelves and there is no consultation.

For now, though, the process remains the same. However, there’s no doubt that Superdrug’s decision is good news for women in Britain. 

Michael Henry, the Healthcare Director at Superdrug has said: ‘We're committed to leading the way in sexual health and offering a generic emergency contraceptive pill at half the price of what’s currently available on the high street. Its availability will give women more choice and access to this medication at a time when they are most in need.’

Responding to the chain’s decision, ‎Ann Furedi, chief executive of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, has praised the decision, saying:

‘We are delighted Superdrug has taken this trailblazing step and look forward to other major retailers following its lead.’ She continued, ‘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 where appropriate 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.’

Whether other retailers of hormonal contraception in Britain will follow in Superdrug’s footsteps remains to be seen.

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