Utahns will pay less for period products at CVS stores. Here’s why.

The pharmacy chain pledges to fight period poverty by making its products more affordable.

In states that tax period products — including Utah — CVS Health will cover those costs, the pharmacy giant announced Tuesday, while it will also cut the price of its own brands.

“Periods are real, they happen every month for 40 years of a woman’s life … and while it is normal and it’s healthy, it is highly stigmatized,” said Dr. Joanne Armstrong, a CVS Health vice president and chief medical officer of women’s health and genomics.

“For individuals who menstruate and can’t afford menstrual products — that’s what period poverty is — that stigma is amplified even further,” Armstrong said in a company-run panel streamed online. In addition to affecting health, period poverty can limit how people are able to go to school or work or live their lives, she said.

In Utah, there are more than 30 CVS Health stores across five counties, the company said. Here are the changes Utahns will see.

No taxes on period products

The CVS website says it started paying taxes on menstrual products for its customers on Oct. 5 in Utah and 11 other states.

Taxes were briefly removed from period products in Utah after a tax reform bill passed in 2019. But the law was later repealed, making Utah one of 22 states that still tax period health related products, according to the Alliance for Period Supplies.

While bills to remove the “tampon tax” have stalled, the Utah Legislature in March passed a bill that required free period products to be available in all K-12 public and charter schools.

Lower prices for CVS period products

The company will cut the prices of its brand of period products sold at CVS Pharmacies by 25%, on or before Oct. 13, its website also says.

The discounts will apply to CVS and Live Better (by CVS) brand “tampons, menstrual pads, liners and cups” at core CVS locations.

Possible price cuts to come

For other store brand products, CVS said, it will fight the so-called “pink tax” — the tendency for companies to jack up the cost of a product marketed to women, despite the item being essentially the same as those they sell to men.

“A pink razor is the same as a blue razor,” Armstrong said during the Tuesday panel.

CVS has “implemented a formal process” for looking at the pricing of its products, said Jake White, a vice president who oversees consumer health care merchandising, in a statement.

New health care offerings

At least six CVS Pharmacies in Utah have MinuteClinics, where the company plans to offer new menstrual, contraception and menopause services. They will include daily virtual care in most states, including “heart health and thyroid monitoring” and birth control consultations, CVS said.

These changes come as CVS is refocusing its retail strategy; it said last year that it would close about 300 stores annually for three years as it moves to provide more health care and expand its digital services, The New York Times reported.

A survey published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in 2019 found that two-thirds of women earning a low income in a large U.S. city couldn’t afford period products in the preceding year, and one in five struggled every month.

And a study published in the medical journal BMC Women’s Health last year found that 14% of college students in the U.S. who menstruate couldn’t afford period products at some time in the preceding year.

[Read more: Cotton balls, towels and diapers: Utah girls who can’t afford period products are turning to cheaper alternatives]

Leto Sapunar is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.