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Online pharmacy: Why we're offering levonorgestrel EHC for £3

Charity: The mandatory EHC consultation serves little clinical purpose
Charity: The mandatory EHC consultation serves little clinical purpose

An online pharmacy is hoping to “improve access” to EHC by offering the levonorgestrel pill for £3, while a charity has called for it to be reclassified as a GSL product.

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.

Poll

Should emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) be reclassified from a pharmacy to a general sales list (GSL) product?
12 Comments
Question: 
Do you think progestogen-based EHC products should be reclassified as GSL items?

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

Yeah I need it ASAP - don't worry we'll send it by post. 9 months later a baby pops out

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

We supply it for free, ellaone as well

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Under the local CCG PGD, I guess? We do the same as well. The charity is just blowing everything out of proportion and doing a free advert for the online pharmacy in question, I guess.

Charles Whitfield Bott, Pharmacist Director

Yes local CCG PGD.

The problem is a service is set up and costed on pharmacist time, and we are paid the minimum amount they can get away with. In a way I have no problem with that, BUT we can not afford a marketing buget, and the CCG or whoever never sees the need for one, hence the take up is slow and the initial problem not addressed.

 

s8chy P, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Nasty greedy online websites not only are they removing business from the high street, now they're making out pharmacies are greedy and profiteering. There's no stopping them.

Female Tech, Pharmacy technician

Absolutely horrendous. How will they monitor whether abused young girls are being forced to lie on the questionnaire?
At least with a consultation and taking it there and then, there is more chance of a safeguarding incident being done

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

Forget the ovulation, what about the time taken for the Pill to be delivered to the patient?? Don't take me wrong, but many of them don't realise till their hangover is over and by the time they realise what has happened and to go online answer all the question, pay for it and wait for the delivery. WOW what world are we living in? Make everythiing online. I still cannot believe £3 for the pill and how much for a signed next day delivery? Are they making any money at all or they have joined the charity (who might be funding them)?????

Sam Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

 

Generic levonorgestrel costs as little as £1.50 and subject to 5% VAT. If we were charging £20 for Pholcodine Linctus we would be shot (similar trade price). It's all a margins game. The headline doesn't mention the £3 postage on item and supplied for advance supply only, not immediate consumption.

Pharmacies cannot carry on making 2000% margin on products and them complain when somebody marks up to 100%. 

 

 

amandeep kaur, Community pharmacist

By the time patient would get the medicine, it would be nearly the end of 72 hour window . Order placed, order processed in pharmacy, order shipped by the end of the day unless special delivery with extra charge, order in sorting office (royal mail), order delivered, patient at work or not at home etc, tablet received in the evening. End of 72 hour window.

Watto 59, Community pharmacist

No it should not be GSL and perhaps  £20 plus prices are too high  .  However a paltry £3 illustrates just how little some pharmacists value their profession, it is no wonder that we get such shoddy treatment from all and sundry.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Radio 4 Womens Hour has a piece about EHC and the information in it could be confusing. Given that all the information we have access to (often supplied by BPAS) says that timing of ovultion is notoriously difficult to pinpoint, consulation seems like a better way forward. Having women 'pop EHC pills' willy-nilly is asking for trouble. Yes, access should be made easier and more widespread but tht is not the same as it being a free-for-all

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

There was a piece on the BBC news site the other month where the writer spoke about how she wasn't aware that the pill only works during certain parts of the menstrual cycle. This is why I've always thought it was important to have the consultation. I don't think it should be something charities should be campaigning to get rid of or lessen the importance of. 

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