The cost of levonorgestrel-based emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) “can be very low for pharmacies”, which is why an online pharmacy began to supply the levonorgestrel 1.5mg pill for £3 at the start of this week, it told C+D yesterday (November 27).
Dr Fox Pharmacy – which is owned by Index Medical and has its headquarters in Bristol – lists the generic manufactured by Mylan for £3. The product has a Drug Tariff price of £5.20.
“Price and regulatory restrictions” can be a “barrier” for patients seeking emergency contraception, and “improving access…protects against unwanted pregnancy for women who might otherwise be unable to afford it”, Dr Fox Pharmacy told C+D.
Offering EHC at an affordable price “does not encourage risky behaviour”, it stressed. “Women who obtain standby emergency contraception are not being irresponsible, quite the opposite.”
“EHC belongs on pharmacy shelves”
Charity the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said Dr Fox Pharmacy’s decision to supply generic EHC for £3 “illustrates just how cheap this medication is”.
But women are still having to pay “vastly over the odds” – up to £26 – “in their time of need” at “some” pharmacies, the charity claimed.
The BPAS called for progestogen-based EHC to be reclassified from a pharmacy to a general sales list (GSL) product, “so it can be sold directly from the shelf without a consultation, at a more affordable price”.
“We believe emergency contraception belongs on the shelf of the pharmacy, not hidden away at the back, accessible only after a consultation,” the BPAS said.
“The mandatory consultation serves little clinical purpose and can act as a barrier to access,” it added.
Last month, the Company Chemists’ Association and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies called on the government to commission a national EHC service in pharmacies.