Boots will roll out a cheaper generic alternative to leading emergency contraception drug levonorgestrel – retailing at £10 less than the branded version, it has announced.

The health and beauty giant yesterday (31 August) announced that the generic version of levonorgestrel was rolled out to a selection of stores a month ago for the reduced price of £15.99, compared to the previous cost of £26.75.

The multiple came under fire earlier this year after refusing to lower the cost of its emergency hormonal contraception (EHC), despite a popular campaign to improve access to the medication in the UK.

Boots apologised at the time for its ‘poor choice of words’ when stating its position on why it refused to reduce the cost of its EHC products.

In a letter to campaign leaders the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), Boots chief pharmacist Marc Donovan said the company would not want to be accused of ‘incentivising inappropriate use’ of EHC, prompting widespread outrage including a letter signed by over 30 Labour MPs.

Price slash

Boots said yesterday it had listened to customer feedback and is committed to sourcing a less expensive EHC medicine.

It believes in the right of women to access EHC with ease and convenience ‘and for many years have been advocates of increasing accessibility of contraception’, it added.

Although the new £15.99 price point is still more expensive than competitors Superdrug and Tesco (which now charge £13.49 and £13.50 for the drug, respectively), Boots said it reflects the cost of the medicine and the need for a consultation with a pharmacist.

Currently available in around 40 stores, Boots said the generic will be in all branches by October.

It waited until now to make the announcement in order to be confident of supply and rollout date, it said.

'Sustainable suppy'

A Boots UK Spokesperson said: ‘We’re committed to listening to our customers on this important matter, and have been working hard to establish a sustainable supply of this medicine so we can offer this as part of our EHC service nationally across all 2,500 of our stores.’

However, the company is still pushing for the medication to be provided free via the Government.

It added: ‘We continue to believe that the best way to increase access of EHC is for a free NHS service to be made available to all women for the provision of EHC in England, as it is in Scotland and Wales.’

The generic levonorgestrel will be available in stores alongside the more expensive, branded version Levonelle and HRA Pharma’s Ella One (ulipristal acetate).

Boots said offering these alternatives ensure they can provide solutions appropriate for each individual woman’s circumstances and according to Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare guidance.