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Ministry of Health
B.C. Smoking Cessation Program

Page contents last updated on September 5, 2013

Information for Prescribers

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The Smoking Cessation Program helps eligible B.C. residents to stop using tobacco by assisting them with the cost of smoking cessation aids. Each calendar year, the program offers coverage for one of two treatment options to eligible B.C. residents:

Option 1—Non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or
Option 2—Prescription smoking cessation drugs

Option 1—Nicotine Replacement Therapy

To be eligible for nicotine replacement therapy coverage, patients must have valid, active MSP coverage.

Each calendar year, PharmaCare will cover 100% of the cost of a single continuous course of treatment lasting up to 12 consecutive weeks (84 days) using

  • Thrive® NRT chewing gum (in two strengths), or
  • Habitrol® NRT patches (in three strengths).

How does your patient get their NRTs?

  • Patients do not need a prescription for NRTs.
  • Before they obtain their NRT products, patients do have to register for the Smoking Cessation Program by calling HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1.
  • Once registered, your patient can pick up their NRTs at any community pharmacy or ask to have them sent by mail.

Option 2—Prescription Smoking Cessation Drugs

PharmaCare covers prescription smoking cessation drugs for patients who have valid, active MSP coverage and who are covered by Fair PharmaCare or one of the following PharmaCare plans:

Each calendar year, PharmaCare will cover a single continuous course of treatment lasting up to 12 consecutive weeks (84 days) of Zyban® (bupropion) or Champix® (varenicline). Each fill is limited to a 28-day supply.

The actual coverage a patient receives depends on the rules of their PharmaCare plan:

  • PharmaCare covers 100% of the eligible cost of Zyban® or Champix® for patients covered under Plan B (Permanent Residents of Licensed Residential Care Facilities), Plan C (Recipients of B.C. Income Assistance) or Plan G (No-Charge Psychiatric Medication plan).
  • For patients covered by the Fair PharmaCare plan, the amount PharmaCare covers depends on whether the patient has met their annual deductible and/or family maximum. For more information, see "Will I have to pay anything for my medications?"

How does your patient get their prescription smoking cessation drug?

  • Physicians do not need to request Special Authority coverage for an initial 12-week course of treatment with Zyban® or Champix®.
  • Patients do not need to register with HealthLinkBC.
  • Patients do need a prescription and the prescription must specify:
    • the indication "smoking cessation"
    • "no substitutions"
    • "dispense in 28-day supply"

Important: PharmaCare covers only the Zyban® version of bupropion for smoking cessation (Wellbutrin®, Wellbutrin XL® and generic bupropion are not covered for this indication). To make sure your patient receives coverage, please indicate the brand name Zyban® and "smoking cessation" on the prescription.

What if your patient needs to change or extend their course of treatment?

Although patients can supplement Smoking Cessation Program coverage by paying any additional cost themselves or by claiming the additional cost through their extended health plan, under exceptional and compelling circumstances, PharmaCare may provide additional coverage.

To request exceptional, case-by-case consideration for additional coverage, physicians can submit a General Special Authority Request form (PDF 523K).

Help us process the request quickly and reduce the need for us to contact you for clarification—provide as much information as possible, including the:

  • patient's diagnosis
  • current therapy (e.g., nicotine gum)
  • benefits of extending or changing the current course of treatment (e.g., severe COPD)
  • reasons for the change or extension (e.g., intolerance, co-existing disease, status of quit attempt)
  • length of treatment needed
  • name and dosage of the alternate product, if desired

Important: Special Authority coverage is not retroactive. Special Authority must be in place before the patient fills the prescription.


For Health Professionals

  • Prescriber participation in Healthy Families BC Prescription for Health Program—In recognition of the importance of helping smokers develop an individualized smoking cessation strategy, the Ministry of Health supports physicians through the Prescription for Health Program program, part of the Healthy Families BC strategy.

    At present, physicians can do brief interventions for tobacco cessation during a regular office visit (series 0100) but only when the patient is already seeing the physician for an underlying medical condition. If a patient only comes to see a physician to discuss tobacco cessation or to obtain a prescription under the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program, the physician cannot bill for the office visit.

    However, under the Prescription for Health Program program, physicians may bill a Personal Health Risk Assessment visit for an at-risk patient to develop an illness prevention health promotion plan tailored to the individual's medical needs and personal situation. Patients who smoke or use other forms of tobacco are considered to be at risk.

    Physicians may provide Personal Health Risk Assessments for up to 100 patients per year. For further details on patient eligibility refer to the billing guide on the General Practice Services Committee website.

    The smoking cessation strategy may or may not include the use of smoking cessation prescription and/or non-prescription medications aids, and may include other strategies at the discretion of the prescriber and patient.

    For information on program objectives, activities and funding, refer to the Personal Health Risk Assessment Incentive on the General Practice Services Committee website.

  • List of eligible smoking cessation medications (PDF 228K)
  • Special Authority criteria for bupropion
  • Special Authority criteria for varenicline
  • Effective pharmacological aids to smoking cessation—table of the dosages, adverse effects, instructions for use and precautions for the PharmaCare-covered prescription smoking cessation drugs and nicotine replacement therapy products.
  • Potential drug interactions with smoking and quitting—chart of common drug interaction issues connected to the using, or discontinuing use, of tobacco.
  • CADTH Smoking Cessation Pharmacotherapy – Summary for Health Care Providers—based on the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) report, Pharmacologic-based Strategies for Smoking Cessation: Clinical and Cost-Effectiveness Analyses.
  • Quit Now resources for healthcare professionals—includes a fax referral service to help you refer patients to QuitNow By Phone, no-cost materials (posters, brochures, pens and fridge magnets), videos demonstrating tips and techniques for addressing tobacco-use issues with your patients.

For patients