Letter to the Editor: Pericoital Contraception and the Market

In August 2016, Stuart Derbyshire published an article in Conscience Magazine entitled “Does Big Pharma Believe in Autonomy?” In it, Derbyshire argues that pericoital contraception, contraception that women take just before or just after sex, could help dramatically decrease the rate of unintended pregnancies, but that pharmaceutical companies seem hesitant to fill this need because of moral implications. Specifically, pericoital contraception will facilitate women’s sexual autonomy, which is not welcome because such autonomy includes the possibility of unplanned sex.

In response to Derbyshire’s article, Elizabeth Westley and Elizabeth Raymond wrote a letter to the editor, entitled “Pericoital Contraception and the Market” and published in December 2016, in which they state that Derbyshire’s argument that “big pharma” is keeping EC pills out of the hands of women who want to use it as a regular method because of moral control is too simplistic. They argue that pharmaceutical companies are not investing in pericoital contraception because of markets, not morality. There are a number of challenges that pharmaceutical companies would have to overcome before the routine use of EC can become widespread, such as approval by a stringent regulatory authority and expensive clinical trials proving efficacy and safety. The authors do make the point, though, that in the absence of a dedicated pericoital pill, manufacturers and drug stores are starting to sell EC in multipacks, which encourages advance planning and makes it easier for women to use them more than once, destigmatizes repeat or routine use of emergency contraception, and may offer a price that allows some women to use this pill several times a month.