Leading chemist, Boots, has said it will not lower the cost of the morning-after pill for fear it would encourage over-use.
The charity, British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which provides abortion services, wrote to retailers asking them to consider offering a more affordable emergency contraceptive pill, after it was revealed that British women pay up to five times more than their European peers for the contraceptive.
Boots, said it would not lower the price as it did not want to be accused of “incentivising inappropriate use”.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist of Boots UK, wrote to BPAS saying Boots had considered the issue very carefully, but pointed out that it the emergency contraceptive pill is already available for free in community pharmacies and NHS services.
He added: “In our experience the subject of emergency hormonal contraception polarises public opinion and we receive frequent contact from individuals who voice their disapproval of the fact that the company chooses to provide this service. We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product.”
BPAS said deliberately setting the price high to prevent women from using the contraceptive pill regularly was “patronising and insulting”.
Boots charges £28.25 for Levonelle emergency contraceptive (the leading brand) and £26.75 for its own non-branded version. Tesco now charges £13.50 for Levonelle and Superdrug charges £13.49 for a non-branded version.
Boots have since released a statement, which did not discuss the price of the emergency contraceptive, but said sales of the pill included "a professional healthcare consultation”.
It said: "This consultation helps support customers in their choice by examining an individual's full medical history and any potential drug interactions.”
In England, Levonelle and another brand, EllaOne, are free of charge on the NHS, but they are only free to women within a certain age bracket from pharmacies in some parts of the country.
In Scotland and Wales, the emergency contraceptive pill is available free of charge on the NHS and from pharmacies.