This post wasn’t exactly ‘planned’ in the same way the other ‘let’s talk about…’ posts are. I was planning a post about hormonal contraception and how it’s spoken about in the media (that post is still coming). Then something else kept popping up, emergency contraception…the morning after pill. I hadn’t thought about the morning after when I was planning the other post. That got me thinking about the morning after pill in general, and the stigma around it.
The morning after is always spoken about in the same way. It’s kind of awkwardly thrown in there when people talk about contraception. The mention is more a token gesture, people acknowledge that it exists, but no one ever really talks about it. They find it awkward and embarrassing, which means that it ticks almost every box to qualify for one of these posts.
When I did my This Month 2.0 introduction, I said that I was going to do some discussion style posts reacting to things I’d read and topics in the media. Earlier this week I was looking for some articles/ topics to possibly talk about for those posts, and I stumbled across a Cosmopolitan article about the morning after and a new delivery service. That was only a couple of days after I started thinking about the contraception post in general, and it got me thinking. I started looking further into it and was left with one question: should emergency contraception be cheaper?
Same Day Delivery
The original article was about a new delivery service for the morning after pill. If you’re in Greater London, you can have it delivered to your door within 3 hours, for £35. £35 for a single pill. At this point, I was thinking about several things: the stigma associated with the morning after in general, the discrete nature of the service on offer and how expensive it was. The service is being introduced by ellaOne, who actually make the contraceptive pill, it’s not a service being offered by a retailer like Boots or Superdrug. Understandably, it’s being introduced to try and encourage people to take it if they need it, without the embarrassment associated with walking into a pharmacy and asking for it. The service will also be available 24/7, which I thought was amazing.
When I decided I was going to do this post, I ran a few Twitter polls about the subject. I asked your opinions on the cost and embarrassment of the morning after pill.
The majority said they felt embarrassed buying the morning after (76%), which made same day home delivery sound like a good idea. I was a little shocked, however, when I asked if you’d pay more for a home delivery service. The result was almost 50/50, 52% said no. I also ran two other polls asking about whether people had been put off buying it in the past because of embarrassment or cost. More people said the cost was an issue than the embarrassment, and suddenly this service wasn’t sounding so great.
Boots came under fire in late 2017 for failing to reduce the price of their emergency contraception by their target of October 2017. Fellow retailers Tesco and Superdrug had agreed to reduce their prices in Spring 2017. Nearly a year later, Boots were yet to match them. This came as British retailers were asked to reduce the cost of their emergency contraceptive pills after it was revealed that British women were paying up to five times the amount charged in some other European countries.
Looking at those prices, £35 sounds expensive. Those lower prices are for generic, store brand Levonorgestrel. You can also get the branded version, Levonelle and the alternative, ellaOne. The generic and branded versions of Levonorgestrel are both to be taken within 72 hours, ellaOne is within 120 hours.
EllaOne uses a different active ingredient, Ulipristal Acetate, and Superdrug charge £35 for it over the counter, or an extra £3.99 for next day delivery. Is it the Chanel of emergency contraception or something? Over the counter, it’s the same price as the 3 hour delivery service. The delivery is suddenly sounding much more reasonable with that information.
Is it too much?
Welcome to the actual point of this post. It’s never going to be made as cheap as a supermarket packet of paracetamol. No one wants to make it so cheap that people consider it as a go-to, frequent use contraceptive. The fact it’s slightly pricey is supposed to encourage people to be responsible with contraception to begin with. This all makes perfect sense, but that causes another problem.
The downside? Well, the poll results tell you. To a lot of people, it’s expensive. You need it, it’s too late to go back in time and not need it, and you can’t afford it. That’s a problem, especially if that problem ends up with an unwanted pregnancy or an abortion that could have easily been avoided. Fear not, you can also get it for free. I did not know this, and I have a feeling a lot of other people are also unaware. Which is another problem, but I’m guessing they don’t want to advertise that for the same reason they don’t want the price to be too low.
Emergency Contraception Facts:
- Okay, ellaOne is actually better. Apparently, ellaOne remains 95% effective for the full 5 day window. Levonelle is 95% effective in the first 24 hours but drops to 58% effective if you wait the full 72 hours.
- You can get it under 16, and it’s free.
- Certain areas will provide it for free regardless of age and you can get it free from certain pharmacies & GP surgeries (call ahead to check).
- Free emergency contraception is available from contraception clinics and most pharmacies if you can’t afford it. More information about that here.
- You can get it in advance. Yes, that’s correct. You can order 1-2 doses in advance from places like Superdrug. If you live in a remote location where places to get it are few and far between, or maybe have a track record of forgetting to take your pill? You can order some to have around…just in case.
So, is emergency contraception too expensive?
That’s tricky. My initial reaction is yes, but the reasons why it’s more expensive make me more inclined to say no. Then there’s the fact you can get it for free, and the problem of people being unaware of that. In an ideal world, a quick Google would tell you that. Whether Googling it is the first thing people think of rather than, ‘I need a pharmacy now’, I don’t know.
What do you think? Is emergency contraception too expensive? At the very least, I think the different options should be more widely spoken about. Let me know your thoughts!
Until next time,