Boots under fire from Labour MPs over broken contraceptive promise

pharmafile | November 17, 2017 | News story | Medical Communications, Sales and Marketing Boots, biotech, drugs, morning after pill, pharma, pharmaceutical 

Boots, a UK high-street pharmacy, has come under pressure from Labour MPs after it failed to adhere to its own promise to make available a generic version of the morning after pill.

It had previously been criticised, in July, after being called on by the British Pregnancy Advisory Services (BPAS) to find a way to reduce the cost of its emergency pill, Levonelle – owned by Bayer.

In a spectacularly misjudged effort at backing itself out of a corner, Boots claimed that the price was so high because it wanted to avoid “incentivising inappropriate use”. After it was roundly condemned for its comments, it initially defended the comments before being forced into a grovelling back down during which it claimed that it would make a generic version available by the end of October.

With that deadline having come and gone with only 69 of its 2,500 stores stocking the generic version, a letter signed by 130 Labour MPs has been dispatched to Elizabeth Fagan, UK Managing Director of Boots.

The letter pulled few punches, stating: “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.”

The new generic version that Boots is struggling to stock will cost customers £15.99, a drop on the branded product’s cost of £28.25. However, competitors in Tesco and Superdrug offer morning after pills for £13.50 and £13.49, respectively.

Boots has claimed that supply chain issues has led to difficulties in stocking the generic equivalent, although BPAS has suggested that it could drop its name-brand product to the price of the cheaper medicine while the issues remain.

A BPAS spokesperson said: “If Boots cannot ‘source’ a new version of emergency contraception to sell at a lower price, then they should do the right thing and cut the price of the version they currently have in stock. Regardless of ‘supply chain delays’, affordable emergency contraception is entirely within their gift to give right now. Every day they refuse to do so, more women are being ripped off, or risking an unplanned pregnancy because they cannot afford Boots’s inflated price tag.”

Sharon Hodgson, Shadow Public Health Minister, stated that the Christmas period is a difficult period for women to receive their contraception and having access to emergency contraception is of a greater urgency.

Ben Hargreaves

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