Low Cost Alternative (LCA) Program

The LCA program creates a category for each type of drug, based on its active ingredient, strength and formulation (e.g. tablet, capsule). Each category typically includes a brand-name drug(s) and one or more generic drugs. PharmaCare assigns a maximum price it will cover for the products in the category.

PharmaCare fully covers generic drugs in the category. They are priced at or below the PharmaCare maximum price.

PharmaCare partially covers brand-name drugs priced above the maximum price—up to the maximum price.

*Actual coverage is subject to the rules of the patient's PharmaCare plan, including any deductible requirements.


What is a generic?

A generic drug is a copy of a brand-name drug. Generics:

  • Are as safe and effective and have bioequivalence
  • Are manufactured to the same Health Canada standards and Food and Drugs Act regulations
  • Contain the identical medicinal ingredients
  • Vary only in minor (non-medicinal) ingredients (e.g. dyes, coatings, binding agents)

The real difference is in price. Generics can cost between 15% and 90% less. They save B.C. residents and insurers significant costs without compromising quality of care


Ask for a generic LCA drug

Your prescriber or pharmacist should be able to let you know if a generic drug is available. (Generic drugs may become available after patent protections on the original drug expire.) You can also access the list of drugs in the LCA program.

If you cannot take a generic drug, your prescriber may request Special Authority for full coverage of another drug.

"No Substitution"

Sometimes a prescriber writes "no substitution" on a prescription. If your prescriber insists on a certain product that is not fully covered (and has not requested a Special Authority), you will receive only partial coverage. Your pharmacist may contact your doctor and request a prescription for a full benefit drug.

If you do not want a generic LCA drug

If you do not want a generic LCA drug, you can purchase the partial-benefit product, which PharmaCare will cover up to the maximum, while you pay the difference in cost.

How is the LCA maximum price set?

The coverage amount is based on a percentage of the price of the brand name drug. If a manufacturer wants its generic drug included on the list of LCA drugs that PharmaCare covers, it has to agree to sell the generic drug to pharmacies at or below the maximum price. PharmaCare covers the drug up to the maximum list price plus a fixed markup for pharmacies (usually 8 percent).

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