Why Boots over-charged for its morning-after pill?

Boots first said it overcharged the morning-after pill to discourage its usage but came out with an apology that is unlikely to subside the decades-old debate

Boots pharmacy
Boots The Chemist at Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, England. By Unisouth via Wikimedia Commons

Pharma major Boots has returned with apologies over its unilateral over-pricing of one of its morning-after pills in Britain despite alternatives are sold at half the price or free of charge in National Health System.

The initial response of Boots to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) was that it wanted to avoid "inappropriate use" of the drug, which indicates the drug giant's unilateral moral policing.

Boots said it was often contacted by individuals who criticise the company for providing the morning-after pill and added that it "would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product".

Amid hue and cry from some Labour MPs who had accused the company for its moral policing by levying "unacceptable" sexist charge on its pill, the company returned in a huff to apologise.

In a carefully worded statement, Boots said: "The pricing (of the morning-after pill) is determined by the cost of the medicine and the cost of the pharmacy consultation. We are committed to looking at the sourcing of less expensive EHC medicines, for example generics, to enable us to continue to make a privately funded EHC service even more accessible in the future."

The morning-after pill, taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy, is available as ellaOne, which is effective for 120 hours and Levonelle, effective for 72 hours. But the manufacturer has decided to over-charge the pill bringing to fore the forgotten debate over the pill more than a decade ago.

Though the pill is around since 1999, it continues to divide opinion over its usage. Some pro-life advocates say it amounts to termination of pregnancy or abortion, while the medical community has been vouching for its free use, especially for teenagers to save them from unwanted pregnancies and associated social trauma. So, the debate continues.

On its part, Boots said, the pill will be provided "for free in over 1,700 of our pharmacies, and we continue to urge the NHS to extend this free service more widely."