Boots has said it is "truly sorry" for the offensive way it tried to justify a decision not to cut the cost of the morning after pill.
Both Tesco and Superdrug have lowered the prohibitive cost of emergency contraception following pressure from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS). However, Boots announced it wouldn't be following suit because a cheaper pill could encourage misuse.
"We would not want to be accused of incentivising inappropriate use, and provoking complaints, by significantly reducing the price of this product," the high-street pharmacy said in a letter to the BPAS.
After Boots' reasoning was condemned as patronising, moralising and sexist - and many people threatened to boycott its 2,500 stores nationwide - the chain has issued a new statement.
"Pharmacy and care for customers are at the heart of everything we do and as such we are truly sorry that our poor choice of words in describing our position on Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC) has caused offence and misunderstanding and we sincerely apologise," the company said.
"We firmly believe in the right of all women to access the EHC service with ease and convenience, and have long been at the forefront of increasing accessibility of contraception for women."
Boots also said it is "committed to looking at the sourcing of less expensive EHC medicines, for example generics" in order to bring down the cost of the morning after pill.
However, the chain has stopped short of guaranteeing cheaper emergency contraception for its customers.
"The provision of EHC requires a regulated mandatory consultation to protect women’s health and is a professional healthcare service provided by highly trained pharmacists. As a leading pharmacy, we will not compromise or undervalue this professional service," Boots explained, adding: "The pricing of EHC is determined by the cost of the medicine and the cost of the pharmacy consultation."
Currently, Boots is charging around twice as much for the morning after pill service than its rivals. Boots sells branded EHC drug Levonelle for £28.25 and a non-branded equivalent for £26.75. Tesco sells Levonelle for £13.50 and Superdrug sells a non-branded equivalent for £13.49.
"Great to see apology from @BootsUK, " journalist Laura Silver tweeted today. "Test now will be if, when and by how much they drop the morning-after pill price."