Boots has said it is “truly sorry” for the way it responded to a campaign calling for it to cut the price of the morning-after pill.
The high street chemist also announced it is looking for cheaper alternatives.
Boots had faced criticism after refusing to reduce the cost of the emergency contraceptive, saying making it cheaper may mean it is “misused or overused”.
Labour MPs had attacked the company for taking an “unacceptable” moral position and health campaigners claimed women were being hit with a “sexist surcharge”.
A spokesman for the chain said: “Pharmacy and care for customers are at the heart of everything we do and as such we are truly sorry that our poor choice of words in describing our position on emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) has caused offence and misunderstanding, and we sincerely apologise.”
Boots charges £28.25 for Levonelle emergency contraceptive and £26.75 for its own version, while Tesco charges £13.50 for Levonelle and Superdrug £13.49 for a generic product.
Image: Boots apologises after saying that cheaper contraceptives could lead to ‘overuse’
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), which launched the campaign calling on Boots to reduce the price of the emergency contraceptive, found the progestogen-based pills can cost up to five times more in the UK than other parts of Europe.
Boots said its price tag was based on the cost of the medicine and the consultation the pharmacist carries out with women but it is “committed” to finding less expensive versions of the tablet.
It said: “We firmly believe in the right of all women to access the EHC service with ease and convenience, and have long been at the forefront of increasing accessibility of contraception for women.
“The provision of EHC requires a regulated mandatory consultation to protect women’s health and is a professional healthcare service provided by highly trained pharmacists. As a leading pharmacy, we will not compromise or undervalue this professional service.”
BPAS told Sky News it was “delighted” with the change of policy, but urged Boots to implement pricing changes quickly to bring it in line with other retailers.
Katherine O’Brien, head of media and policy research at BPAS, said: “We are delighted with Boots’ decision to lower the price. It is obviously welcomed.
“I hope that they enact this policy soon because we’ve already seen Superdrug and Tesco lower their prices over the last two months.
“There is no reason why Boots can’t do the same in a short time period.”