Remember the Seinfeld episode? Elaine, after her favourite contraceptive is discontinued, must weigh up whether her suitors are worthy enough to justify the use of her precious and diminishing stock. New Zealand finds itself in a similar predicament, if not quite as desperate. Prescription holders in New Zealand can now only get their hands on 72 condoms every 90 days—the rationing is a result of supply issues for one of the country's most popular contraceptive pills, Stuff reports.
On Wednesday, the government's drug-buying agency, Pharmac, also confirmed it would ration Levlen ED—a combined oral contraceptive pill used by 100,000 women each year—just months after announcing there was a global shortage. From Friday, February 1, women will only be able to get their hands one-month lots of the medicine, instead of three- or six-month batches like usual. A prescription will still cost the same and repeats for remaining months will be free, but it means more visits to the chemist.
Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said the agency was addressing the “supply issue” with Levlen supplier Bayer New Zealand and apologised for any inconvenience. "The supplier has some stock but there is a risk of a shortage prior to re-supply in late March,” she said. “While current dispensing restrictions limit how often a person can collect their Levlen ED prescription, this should not stop patients from accessing their medicine or taking it as directed.”
So now is a good time to check your stash and see if you'll need to plan a pharmacy visit or two to get enough contraception to last you until late March. This isn’t the first time women have had to deal with shortages. In December 2017 Pharmac made a switch from Ava 30 to Levlen ED and during the transition both contraceptive pills ran dry.
Countdown Supermarket said their condom stock in stores was not affected by the pharmacy rationing, so if you’ve exhausted your supply you’ll just need to fork out for condoms at full price.