The morning after pill is a resource many women rely on to prevent an unwanted pregnancy after sex, yet it often comes at an inaccessible price. One in five British women aged between 18 and 35 take the morning after pill each year but are forced to pay up to five times more for it than women in Europe. Now an online pharmacy is looking to drastically undercut walk-in pharmacies that charge for the morning after pill.
The website recommends that you should not buy the morning after pill from them if you need immediate treatment and should instead consult a doctor or local pharmacist as delivery could take too long. If you do choose to buy the medication, delivery will cost £2.90 and will take at least 24 hours.
The morning after pill can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or if the contraception you have used has failed. It is more effective the sooner after unprotected sex it is taken but can work for up to five days afterwards. There are two widely available brands of morning after pill: Levonelle, which can be taken up to 72 hours post-unprotected sex, and ellaOne, which can be taken up to 120 hours after.
Women can get this medication free of charge through their GP, sexual health clinic, some hospital A&Es and most NHS walk-in centres, but often this comes with appointment delays or long waits as you need to see a doctor or nurse for the prescription.
Alternatively, women can purchase emergency contraception over the counter at their local pharmacy. Currently Boots charges £28.25 for Levonelle and £15.99 for its generic alternative. Superdrug charges £13.49 for its own branded Ezinelle and £27 for Levonelle.
You can purchase ellaOne from most pharmacies if you are over 16 and prices vary, although it usually costs around £35.
The £3 pill has highlighted the high price women pay for emergency contraceptives.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), whose campaign led to huge reductions in price for the morning after pill in 2017, is urging pharmacies to lower the price given how little these pills cost to produce.
The charity has also called for the progestogen-based contraception to be reclassified as a General Sales List medication so it can be sold directly across the counter without the need for a consultation.
Clare Murphy, director of external affairs at BPAS, said: "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."
Refinery29 UK has contacted Boots and Superdrug for comment. We will update this piece when we receive a response.