Feature: Accessing the morning after pill in the UK: extortionate costs and unnecessary consultations
Dr Khaled Sadek MBBS BSc PhD MRCGP, The Smart Clinics, London
A feature in Marie Claire investigates the ‘extortionate’ cost of the morning after pill in the UK and question the ‘unnecessary’ consultations.
Levonelle emergency contraception (the morning after pill) was first made available in pharmacies around 15 years ago. At around £25-30, the price has been set intentionally set high in order to make it less attractive as a long-term option. That is a lot more expensive than elsewhere – reportedly the price in France is around 7 euros. Emergency contraception is also available for free in the UK, but this involves mandatory consultation with a pharmacist which some women report as being more involved and invasive than a simple review of other medications.
Marie Claire’s feature includes the account of Maddie, 28, who says she was asked about her number of sexual partners, use of protection and relationships.
“It was just generally an ordeal. I couldn’t see how that information was relevant.
“It’s hard for it to be a non-judgmental exchange when the questions they’re asking are so invasive.”
In response to the problems of cost and unnecessary consultation, the British Advisory Service (BPAS) launched their ‘Just Say Non’ campaign last year, which suggests that a woman can get the Eurostar to Paris, buy the morning after pill for around €7 and get back with change from £30 including buying a coffee/croissant.
Clare Murphy, Director of External Affairs for BPAS, told Marie Claire:
“That’s a problem in many respects, especially when you consider we are living in an era where sexual health services are becoming increasingly restricted.
BPAS suggest that the obligatory consultation for free emergency contraception is unnecessary, considering the low risks. Clare continues:
“It’s safer than aspirin, or some of the other things that are readily available off the shelves.
“Nicotine replacement products, for example, can be harmful to children. But the benefits are seen as outweighing the risk.”
Expert GP Opinion
Marie Claire sought expert advice from The Smart Clinics’ GP, Dr Khaled Sadek, who said that although the morning after pill is completely safe to use in a majority of women, there are certain health conditions to be aware of.
“There’s are certain drugs that increase the activity of enzymes in the liver, and therefore speed up the breakdown of this pill, making it less effective.
“Alternatively, the woman might be taking concurrent medication that increases the alkalinity of the stomach acid, and this has an effect also.”
He says that the consultation should stay in order to screen for these issues, but agreed that the questions asked by the pharmacist should be standardised and that the emphasis should be on long-term contraceptive options:
“The threshold to accessing it needs to be lower.”
“The issue is that you’re selling the morning after pill when what you want to be selling is good sexual health.”
Read the full article at http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/life/accessing-morning-after-pill-uk-483301
Dr Khaled Sadek
Dr Khaled Sadek is an experienced GP and a member of The Smart Clinics’ team of London private GPs.
The Smart Clinics
Private Healthcare London
The Smart Clinics is a private healthcare company established in 2013, offering a membership-based alternative to NHS care for individuals and families.
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London’s pre-eminent integrated healthcare clinics
The company offers patients a choice of two conveniently located and comfortably equipped clinics at Brompton Cross (South Kensington) and Wandsworth, both of which now offer excellent private dentistry services in well-equipped studios.
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