MPs have accused high street chemist Boots of failing to keep a promise to cut the price of emergency contraception.
They wrote to the pharmacy giant’s managing director to ask why it has failed to provide the morning after pill at a cheaper rate in all of its stores, despite promising to do so.
Those signing the letter included Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips; Birmimgham Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne; Birmimgham Edgbaston MP Preet Gill; Birmingham Erdington MP Jack Drome; Birmingham Northfield MP Richard Burden; Birmingham Hall Green MP Roger Godsiff; West Bromwich West MP Adrian Bailey, and Birmingham Selly Oak MP Steve McCabe.
Boots was criticised earlier this year after it initially refused to cut the price of the morning after pill, despite shops such as Tesco and Superdrug agreeing to do so following a campaign by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
The chain’s chief pharmacist said it did not want to be accused of “incentivising inappropriate use”.
Boots later apologised, and announced it was selling a new, cheaper version in 38 of its stores - and would make it available in all 2,500 by October.
However, MPs say it has broken that promise.
So far, the cheaper emergency contraceptive, which costs £15.99, is available at just 69 stores.
Products sold in other branches cost £26.75 or more.
In a letter to Boots Managing Director Elizabeth Fagan, MPs say they are “deeply concerned that Boots are unable or unwilling to deliver” on their pledge, and call on the pharmacy chain to consider reducing the price of their own-brand emergency contraception, currently priced at around £26, if they are experiencing difficulties sourcing another version.
The letter says: “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 well-being have been unable to do so.
“As you are undoubtedly aware, over the Christmas period many women struggle to access contraceptive services and their usual family planning method. As a result, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, bpas, reports that they see an increased number of women facing an unplanned pregnancy following the festive season.
“Clearly, pharmacy access to emergency contraception is of an even greater importance in December and January - which we are fast approaching.
“We are deeply concerned that Boots are either unable or unwilling to deliver on your pledge.”
Boots has blamed stock shortages for the failure to make the cheaper contraceptive available in every store, but the MPs said that in the meantime the chain should sell its other products at a cheaper price.
A Boots spokesperson said: “We remain committed to increasing accessibility of EHC [ Emergency Hormonal Contraception] for women, and we firmly believe in the right of all women to access these services with ease and convenience.
“It is currently available as a free NHS service in the majority of our stores, however we would like to see one nationally commissioned NHS service available for all women in England, as there is in Wales and Scotland. We are inviting our MPs to work with us to make EHC available free from pharmacies to all women in England and end the current postcode lottery on availability either due to location or age.
“We remain committed to rolling this service out nationally. Unfortunately the manufacturer has experienced a batch failure due to quality issues which means that the stock we were expecting is not now available, and we are now waiting for a new batch to be produced. We thank our customers for their continued patience and reassure them that we are doing all we can to roll this service out to all our stores as soon as possible.
“In July we launched an extended over-the-counter Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) service which includes the generic levonorgestrel (priced at £15.99) in 38 Boots stores in the East Midlands. We’re pleased to confirm that we have now been able to roll this out to a further 31 stores; taking the total number of Boots stores offering the service to 69.”