Pharmac is considering funding women's hygiene products as the cost leaves some resorting to rags and old clothing as an alternative.
The government funding body is considering an application, made by a private citizen last year.
Pharmac chief executive Steffan Crausaz told RNZ the first step would be to determine whether tampons fall within the boundary of what the agency can fund, limited to medicines and therapeutic medical devices.
He acknowledged there was a "fairly substantial amount of money going on women's product" in some families, and said some women were even turning to rags, old clothing and tea towels as alternatives.
Last year the Salvation Army helped launch a campaign with Countdown seeking donations of sanitary items for vulnerable women.
Spokeswoman Pam Waugh says it would make a huge difference to teens and low income women if sanitary pads and tampons were funded.
"Some of your young girls have to rip up newspapers or telephone books, things like that. So any funding for our clients is especially important or helpful."
Ms Waugh says there's still a long way to go to remove the stigma around women's periods.
"It's the very basics of life we're talking about here but this is what it's like for people."