Boots has finally reduced the price of the morning-after pill, months after it provoked outrage by refusing to do so for fear that a cheaper pill would encourage overuse. However, the new cheaper pill, available in stores from next month, will still be more expensive than at competing pharmacies.
Boots' more affordable morning-after pill, an alternative to the £28.25 Levonelle, will cost £15.99 and will be sold in all 2,500 stores by October, The Guardian reported. While the move is to be welcomed, the new generic pill is still £2.49 more expensive than the £13.50 version available at Superdrug, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda. It's not clear whether Boots will be cutting the price of the two emergency contraception options it currently sells.
Boots' announcement came just hours after it emerged that its lawyers had issued a legal warning to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the charity that lobbied the pharmacy giant to cut the price of its pill with its "Just Say Non" campaign. The letter accused BPAS of encouraging the "harassment" of its senior staff, as BuzzFeed News reported.
The formal complaint was made on behalf of Boots by Schillings LLP, a law firm known for its work defending clients' reputations, at the beginning of August. The letter accused BPAS of helping its supporters to send a "torrent of personal abuse" to Boots' staff on social media. The charity had provided an email template on its website, enabling people to easily lobby the pharmacy chain to lower the price of its morning-after pill.
Boots' lawyers took issue with the inclusion of the names of individual employees in the email, saying that its staff had received abusive emails and social media messages, and urged BPAS not to "encourage personal abuse of our people" in future campaigns.
Responding to Boots' legal warning, BPAS said the people writing to Boots urging it to provide more affordable emergency contraception had included women on low incomes who had bought the pill from its stores, victims of sexual assault, pharmacists, doctors, nurses, and midwives.
Clare Murphy, BPAS’ director of external affairs, said the charity was "pleased to see that in future Boots will be providing a cheaper emergency contraceptive product across its stores nationally," but that it rejected the accusation that it had encouraged the harassment of senior staff. "We are extremely saddened that Boots feels the need to resort to legal warnings against a charity representing the concerns of women in the process.”
Lawyers for the charity, writing in response to Schillings' legal warning, said: "A company cannot experience alarm or distress," reported BuzzFeed News, which saw the letter. "All BPAS is providing is a means by which concerned members of the public may address their concerns to your client and one or more of its senior executives."
The letter went on: "While this criticism may be unpleasant to hear, it is a disservice to Boots' customers and other stakeholders to describe it as abuse. BPAS has seen nothing which could be reasonably described as personal abuse, let alone abuse that might cause immense personal distress to senior company executives."
BPAS also stated in a tweet that the emails sent to Boots by its supporters had not been abusive but were “overwhelmingly polite”.