Boots has risked angering its customers after refusing to lower the price of the morning after pill.
The pharmacy chain has been branded “patronising and pathetic” for its bosses decision but they say they do not want to encourage “inappropriate” use of the emergency contraception.
Competitor Superdrug and supermarket giant Tesco have both reduced the cost of the hormone tablet from nearly £30 to £13.
But Boots, the UK’s biggest pharmacy, believes it will “provoke complaints” if it does the same.
The company’s Chief Pharmacist Marc Donavan explained why they had made the choice in a letter to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS).
He wrote: “We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product.”
BPAS hit back, saying it’s “insulting” the price of the pill had been “deliberately set high to prevent women from using it as a regular method of contraception”, adding that Boots was lumping on a “sexist surcharge” to the cost.
After hearing the news, Labour MP Yvette Cooper angrily hit out, writing on Twitter: “Boots this is patronising & pathetic - keeping emergency contraception price too high cos you don’t trust women and are scared of critics. (sic)”
BPAS launched a ‘Just Say Non!’ campaign in a bid to get retailers to drop the price of the pill after it emerged women in European countries pay just €7, the equivalent of £6.29.
A statement on the campaign’s website reads: “Since we launched the Just Say Non campaign Superdrug and Tesco have both halved their prices to around £13.
“Unfortunately, Boots - the leading high-street pharmacy - has so far refused, stating that they are concerned there would be complaints from those who oppose women’s access to this and safe essential medication.
“For affordable emergency contraception to be truly accessible to the majority of women, it needs to be available at Boots.
“We need to tell Boots to urgently reconsider this policy, following Superdrug and Tesco by doing the right thing by women and ditching the sexist surcharge on emergency contraception.”
Mr Donovan said he was disappointed by the comments made by BPAS, adding that he believes a healthcare professional should be consulted before the morning after pill is taken and the higher cost covers this.
He said: “We are regularly contacted by groups with varying views on this topic, our priority is the health and wellbeing of our customers and patients.”
The pharmacist added that the morning after pill is a “professional healthcare service which, we believe, requires a professional health care consultation”.
He continued: “The consultation also helps the pharmacists offer important sexual healthcare advice to women and helps us to prevent emergency contraception from being misused or overused.
“The NHS commission a free local EHC service which we offer in the vast majority of our pharmacies to eligible women following consultation.”