An online pharmacy has faced a mixed response after selling a morning after pill for £3.
Historically, the emergency contraception has been priced at between £25 and £30.
And while in 2017 high street chain Superdrug was praised for selling the morning after pill at the lower price of £13.49, the likes of Boots refused to budge on the contraceptive price.
Now, Dr Fox, a GP-managed website which sells low cost prescription medicine, is selling the emergency contraceptive for less than a fiver, it was announced earlier this week. This comes the week before December, which is the month with the highest number of conceptions.
Its product Levonorgesterel 1.5 mg is available for £3 for a single dose, and £6 for two single doses.
The medication is a generic form of the more popularly known brand, Levonelle (meaning it is a copy of the brand-name drug which contains the same dosages and qualities of its branded counterpart).
Women aged 18-54 can obtain the contraception following an online consultation on the website, and is intended to be used as a “standby morning after pill for future use” rather than “for immediate use”.
In emergency situations, users are warned to “see a doctor or pharmacist, if you need a morning after pill straight away - post is NOT fast enough.”
The service also states that the pill should not be ordered by women who are overweight (a Body Mass Index of 30 or above). Instead, the alternative emergency contraception EllaOne – which is not reduced – should be used.
“It’s our mission this Christmas to help prevent the problem of an unplanned pregnancy by encouraging women to think ahead and be prepared,” said Dr Deborah Lee, a representative for the company.
A mixed response to the £3 morning after pill
Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs at the British Pregnancy Advisory Society, has welcomed the move in a statement – saying it draws attention to “just how cheap” the medication is to produce.
“The sale of the morning after pill for £3 illustrates just how cheap this medication is, but women are still having to pay vastly over the odds for this pill at their time of need. We believe emergency contraception belongs on the shelf of the pharmacy, not hidden away at the back, accessible only after a consultation.
“The progestogen pill is extremely safe, can be used as often as needed, and gives women a second chance of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy that may risk their physical and mental health.
“There is simply no reason why we should restrict access in the way we do when the stakes for women are so high – women know when they need it and should be trusted to use it.”
BPAS has recommended that that progestogen-based emergency contraception, such as Levonorgesterel, should be reclassified as a General Sales List medication, so it can be sold directly from the shelf without a consultation at a more affordable price.
But pro-life organisations have criticised the move to reduce the morning after pill to so-called “pocket money prices”.
Liz Parsons, director of advocacy at Life Charity, told Yahoo UK in a statement: “Every year around this time we have sales pitches like this. They suggest that at Christmas time people will throw caution to the wind, end up in an unplanned pregnancy and require emergency contraception. Alongside this assumption is a blatant encouragement for people to stock up on Morning After Pills.
“We understand that pharmacies are businesses but they also have a social responsibility to desist from suggesting and encouraging people to engage in irresponsible sexual behaviour which requires emergency contraception.”
She added: Whilst emergency contraception targets pregnancy it has no effect on sexually transmitted diseases, the rates of which have remained high over the years.
“Marketing campaigns which encourage a liberal, casual approach to sex can therefore actually have damaging health effects on people. In view of this, maybe it is time for the Department of Health to consider restrictions on pharmacies engaging in these irresponsible marketing tactics."
Dr Anthony McCarthy, from the Society of the Protection of Unborn Children, told Fabulous: “This has nothing to do with medicine or any serious approach to cutting STDs or unplanned pregnancies.
“To do as a Christmas gimmick, when the world celebrates the sanctity of birth, says much about organisations which view the vulnerable with predatory contempt.”