Pharmac defends funding flavoured condoms

Taxpayer funding of a wider range of condoms, including flavoured and ribbed varieties, saves money, increases choice and promotes better sexual health practices, says Pharmac.

The drug funding agency has defended its decision, announced yesterday, that condom subsidies would now include strawberry, vanilla, chocolate and banana condoms, as well as large, extra large, ribbed and supersensitive varieties.

The move has come under fire from a number of parties, who say the money would be better spent elsewhere.

The condom move has been announced just weeks after Pharmac turned down funding for 12-month courses of the breast cancer drug Herceptin.

But Pharmac says offering variety is a win-win option in the battle against New Zealand's high rates of unplanned pregnancies, terminations and sexually transmitted diseases.

Acting medical director Dilky Rasiah said that overall the decision was about getting better health outcomes through a greater use of condoms, and increasing choice for a lower price.

"Improving sexual health is a government health priority so increasing the range of condoms available can only be good in terms of encouraging safe sex practices."

Each year New Zealand prescribers issued some nine million condoms, which cost the taxpayer less than $1m of the $635m pharmaceutical budget. Under the latest decision, the supplier's price would reduce by 10 percent, she said.

"Condoms are already funded and always have been. This decision sees a 10 percent price reduction for all condoms, which frees up funds that can be used to purchase other new medicines."

Conservative lobby group Family First has labelled the subsidised flavoured condoms as "morally bankrupt and an insult to people with breast cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease".

It called for the Government to reverse this spending decision.

National director Bob McCoskrie said it was "tragic and a national disgrace".

"At a time when Pharmac can't find funding for sufferers of breast cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and other serious problems, that they can find funding to subsidise flavoured condoms," he said.

"This is simply about funding sexual behaviour that shouldn't be at the cost of the taxpayer or other more life-threatening medication.

"Is Pharmac going to consider subsidising sex toys next?"

He cited a number of people missing out on funding for drugs.

"Yet Pharmac can find funding for strawberry flavoured condoms."

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