Boots Pharmacies have recently announced they are dropping the price of Emergency Hormonal Contraception (EHC), more commonly known as the morning after pill, across all Irish stores from €35 to €24 for a cheaper generic brand, effective in stores nationwide from Monday 18th September 2017.
The decision to drop the price follows an onslaught of criticism faced by Boots Pharmacies back in July, when the company refused to lower the cost of the pill despite a campaign by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), a leading provider of abortion care in the United Kingdom. Boots UK Chief Pharmacist, Marc Donovan, stated that the company did not want to be accused of ‘incentivising inappropriate use’ of the pill.
Following their suggestion that women would misuse or overuse the pill if the price was reduced, the company was accused of “infantilising women” by Jess Phillips, a Labour MP in the U.K. Many campaigners have also commented that the statement was insulting and sexist. A spokesperson has since apologised for their ‘poor choice of words’.
According to the Irish Family Planning Association, research studies from around the world have found that increased access to EHC does not result in an increase in unprotected sex or a decrease in regular contraceptive use. Therefore making the pill more readily available to Irish women by reducing its price is certainly a move in the right direction. Yet the question remains; Is this change great enough? What are the facts regarding EHC use?
When used correctly, EHC is 99% effective. It can be used up to 3-5 days after sex but is most effective when used within 24 hours. A study published in 2010 showed that of 1,696 women who received the emergency pill within 72 hours of sex, just 37 fell pregnant.
Women of all ages use EHC to prevent pregnancy when regular contraception fails, when no contraception was used, or in the case of sexual assault. All those seeking emergency contraception are entitled to a confidential consultation with their pharmacist before taking EHC. The pill prevents pregnancy by stopping or delaying ovulation which stops fertilisation from taking place. Contrary to popular belief, repeated use of the emergency contraceptive pill poses no health risks and has no effect on future fertility, however, regular and consistent contraceptive use (such as the pill, mini pill, IUD) is more effective and recommended rather than repeated EHC use.
The most common brands of the morning after pill in Ireland are Norlevo and Prevenelle. The pill is available without a prescription from all pharmacies, with the price varying. Boots pharmacies are now the cheapest provider of emergency contraception in Ireland at €24, unless you have a medical card and get a prescription from your GP, in which case it costs €2.50.