20 Feb 2017

Pharmac considers cutting cost of tampons, pads

From Morning Report, 7:44 am on 20 February 2017

Pharmac is considering whether to help cut the cost of tampons and pads.

Sanitary prodcuts

Sanitary prodcuts Photo: 123RF

The government funding agency has received an application for it to subsidise sanitary products and hopes to report back to the applicant shortly.

Campaigners have been lobbying to make tampons and pads more available since reports last year of women not being able to afford them and using rags or newspaper instead.     

Pharmac says it was contacted late last year by an individual, who it won't name, asking it to subsidise the products.

Its chief executive, Steffan Crausaz, says the agency's now seeking advice on whether sanitary products fall within the boundaries of items it's allowed to fund.
Mr Crausaz says this is new territory for the agency and it's far too early to speculate on the possible level of funding or how Pharmac could go about it.

Darryl Evans runs the Mangere Budgeting Service in Auckland and says the cost of these products is a major problem for many women he talks to.

"I can think of one particular family where currently there's three teenage girls in the one home. So if you then include the mother, there's a fairly substantial amount of money going on women's product."

Mr Evans said some women "literally are using rags, old clothing or tea towels."

The Salvation Army helped launch a campaign last year, alongside Countdown, calling for donations of sanitary products to those in need.

The charity's head of social services, Pam Waugh, say Pharmac has an opportunity to improve the lives of the next generation of girls.

"Especially for young people, children at school. The young girls are getting to that stage of life and some of them are missing school, because their families can't afford to buy sanitary products."

Both the Health Minister, Jonathan Coleman, and the Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, declined to be interviewed.