Contraceptives that previously cost women hundreds of dollars will now be available for free.
Pharmac announced on Monday it will fund the full cost of the Mirena and Jaydess intrauterine devices (IUDs) for anyone seeking long-term contraception.
IUDs are a form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) that sit inside the uterus and release hormones to prevent eggs being fertilised. Once inserted they are effective at preventing pregnancy for a number of years (three for Jaydess, five for Mirena) or until they are removed.
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Mirena is also used to help manage the symptoms of endometriosis and other conditions that can cause heavy periods.
Until now, Mirena has only been funded for women with certain medical conditions such as iron deficiency. It costs $340 to have the device inserted at a Family Planning clinic, and about $460 at a private practice.
Jaydess is a new IUD that costs $275 to be inserted at a Family Planning clinic.
Monday's funding announcement lifts all restrictions on those wanting access to Mirena or Jaydess, meaning both LARCs will become free in New Zealand from November 1.
Family Planning has praised Pharmac's decision and says it expects more patients to choose Mirena or Jaydess for their contraceptive needs once they're free, just as demand for 'rod' implants increased when they became free in 2010.
"Funding these two additional devices for contraception will improve equity and access to health care," chief executive Jackie Edmond says.
"It means everyone, regardless of their income, can now choose a Mirena or a Jaydess as a contraceptive option. This is a great step forward for New Zealand - it’s something we have wanted for a very long time and we are delighted."
Edmond says because of the highly variable and personal nature of contraception, many people need to try more than one method to find what works for them.
"Cost can be one reason that people don’t choose a particular contraceptive type - and that’s not acceptable. Access to highly effective, long-acting contraception makes a real and positive difference - on a daily basis."
Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter has also expressed her approval of the funding, echoing Edmond's claim that price poses a significant barrier to contraception.
"I welcome women having greater choices over their bodies and contraceptives," Genter says.
"LARCs are both reliable and becoming increasingly popular as more people discover the benefits they offer… Improving access to effective long-acting implants makes it much easier for women to manage their fertility and reduce unintended pregnancies."
The 2019 Budget allocated $6 million in annual funding for LARCs, including for insertion and removal.