The morning-after pill should be available to buy directly from pharmacy shelves, experts have said.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said the emergency contraceptive pill should be available without an “unnecessary and embarrassing” consultation. Women in the UK can pay as much as £30 for the birth-control tablet, up to five times more than women in Europe, according to the BPAS, who said the pill can cost as little as seven euro (£6) in France.
This is due in part to a mandatory consultation with a UK pharmacist before the pill can be bought, it said.
The organisation said in other countries, such as the US, the medication is available to buy straight from the shelf.
BPAS chief executive Ann Furedi said this was a “sexist surcharge” and called on the Department of Health to launch a review into retail access of emergency contraception.
“It is utterly stupid that we have made a medication which gives women a second chance of avoiding an unwanted pregnancy so hard to obtain,” she said.
“There is no financial justification for the high price of this pill, nor clinical reason for a consultation before it can be sold.
“Many women find the discussion with a pharmacist before they are allowed the pill intensely embarrassing and it is entirely unnecessary as there are no circumstances where its use would be unsafe. People are trusted to use a wide variety of medicines sold on the shelves of pharmacies in a sensible and appropriate way.
“It’s time to ditch what is the ultimate sexist surcharge and put emergency contraception where it belongs - on the shelf, at a price women can afford.”