Frequently Asked Questions
- What if I tried to quit but started using tobacco again?
- How many times can I take part in the program?
- I tried a smoking cessation prescription drug, but it didn’t work. I still crave tobacco. Can I get free NRTs now?
- Why are nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products free and prescription drugs are not?
- How do I get my NRTs?
- What if I cannot get to my pharmacy to pick up my NRTs?
- Do I have to return to the same pharmacy for my NRT refills?
- How much coverage do I get each year?
- How much medication can I get at a time?
- Why can I only get a 4-week (28-day) supply?
- When do you start counting the 12 weeks of treatment?
- What is the earliest in a year that I can start? What is the latest?
- Can I start treatment, stop for a couple of months and then start again?
- When should I get my refills?
- How do I get refills of my prescription smoking cessation drug?
- I stopped taking my medication partway through my 12-week course of treatment. Can I start up again at a later date?
- I had a reaction to the smoking cessation medication. What should I do?
- What if I react badly to a prescription smoking cessation drug or NRT product?
- Switching from an NRT product to a prescription drug
- Switching from one prescription to another prescription
- Switching from a prescription drug to an NRT product
- Switching from one NRT product to another NRT product
It often takes more than one attempt to stop smoking or using tobacco. That is why you can take part in the BC Smoking Cessation Program more than once. After PharmaCare covers one course of treatment, you can be eligible for coverage again January 1 of the following year to start a new course.
You can take part in the smoking cessation program once in a calendar year. You can receive coverage for another course of treatment the following year (starting January 1) if you meet the eligibility criteria again.
I tried a smoking cessation prescription drug, but it didn’t work. I still crave tobacco. Can I get free NRTs now?
PharmaCare will cover only one course of prescription medication or one course of NRTs, not both in a single calendar year.
So, if PharmaCare covered any portion of your smoking cessation medications or NRTs, you will not be eligible for coverage of either until the following calendar year.
If you want to switch to NRTs during the course of your treatment, see Switching from a prescription drug to an NRT product.
PharmaCare covers the smoking cessation prescription drugs bupropion (Zyban®) and varenicline (generics)* in exactly the same way as all other eligible prescription drugs, which is based on your PharmaCare plan and any outstanding deductible.
PharmaCare covers 100% of the eligible cost of NRTs because they are the most accessible form of smoking cessation aid and easily provides as many people as possible the opportunity to stop smoking.
*Champix® (brand name varenicline) is a partial benefit under PharmaCare. Ask your doctor about the low-cost alternatives.
Simply visit your local community pharmacy. Both you and the pharmacist must sign a declaration form.
If your usual pharmacy does not provide mailing/delivery services, you may wish to call other pharmacies who offer this service.
No. You can pick up your NRT refills at any community pharmacy.
You can pick up your refills of bupropion (Zyban®) or varenicline as you would for any other prescription drug.
You are covered up to 12 weeks (84 continuous days) for one prescription drug or an NRT product in a calendar year (January 1 through December 31). You must order or pick up all of your prescription drug or NRT supply by the end of the 84th day of coverage.
You can get a 4-week (28-day) supply of a prescription smoking cessation drug or NRT product at a time. During the 12-week course of treatment you can get three 4-week fills.
PharmaCare limits each fill to 4 weeks (28 days):
- in case the medication does not agree with you,
- you need to change the dosage, or
- you decide to stop treatment.
Also, not everyone needs a full 12-week course of treatment to be able to quit. Some people are able to quit sooner.
You start counting the day you fill your first prescription or when you pick up your first order of an NRT product.
You can start as early as January 1. That is the first day of the new coverage year where your coverage is reset to 84 consecutive days (12 weeks) for that year.
The latest you could start your treatment and still obtain all three fills of medication in the same calendar year is November 6. You can choose to start later than November 6, but you will not use the full 12 weeks of coverage for that calendar year.
No. Clinical studies show that people are more likely to successfully quit smoking after sticking to a course of treatment for 12 weeks in a row. The Ministry of Health wants to encourage people to complete a full and continuous course of treatment to maximize their chances of success. For this reason, the program only covers a single course of treatment of up to 12 weeks in a row.
Visit your pharmacy for your refill when you have less than a 14-day supply remaining.
If your doctor gave you a prescription for the full 12 weeks, simply visit your pharmacy to get your prescription drug refills. Wait until you have less than a 14 day supply left to ensure maximum PharmaCare coverage.
If your doctor wrote you a prescription for a shorter course of treatment (e.g., 8 weeks), you will need to visit your doctor again to see if you need more medication.
I stopped taking my medication partway through my 12-week course of treatment. Can I start up again at a later date?
Once you fill your first prescription or get your first supply of an NRT product, the 12-week (84-day) coverage period starts. You have to pick up all 3 fills of the medication or NRT product before the end of that 84-day period.
If you stopped for a week or two, you would still be able to get all three fills within the 84 days. If you stopped for a month or more, however, your coverage may run out before your last refill order.
See What if I tried to quit but started using tobacco again? for more information on when you will be able to get coverage again.
Prescription smoking cessation drugs and NRTs can have side-effects. Some of them are mild and some can be serious.
It’s a good idea to discuss these side effects with your doctor or pharmacist.
If the reaction is serious, call your doctor or 9-1-1. If the reaction is mild, call your doctor or pharmacist, or call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 for advice.
To learn more about what kinds of side effects you might feel, refer to QuitNow’s Quit Medication Guide.
If you react badly to an NRT product and want to switch to a prescription smoking cessation drug, you will usually have to wait until the next calendar year before PharmaCare will provide coverage.
PharmaCare may cover the eligible costs of the prescription drug in the same year as the NRT product if your doctor agrees to send a Special Authority request to PharmaCare for the switch. Special Authority requests are evaluated on an exceptional case-by-case basis only and depend on how far along each patient is in their course of treatment.
If you react badly to one prescription smoking cessation drug, your doctor can prescribe the other drug. Your doctor will need to get permission from the PharmaCare Special Authority program for the switch before PharmaCare will cover the new drug. Requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
If you paid the entire cost of the prescription smoking cessation drug without any PharmaCare contribution:
If you react badly to a prescription smoking cessation drug and want to switch to an NRT product, you can get the product free of charge if you paid the entire cost of the prescription.
If PharmaCare paid part or all of the cost of the prescription smoking cessation drug:
If PharmaCare paid any part of the prescription cost, you may be able to get an NRT product at no charge in the same year, but only if your doctor recommends it for medical reasons. Your doctor will need to send a Special Authority request to PharmaCare for the switch, asking for additional coverage on your behalf. Requests are evaluated on an exceptional case-by-case basis and depends how far along each patient is in their course of treatment.
If you started with an NRT product and want to switch to a different NRT product, you can request this at your pharmacy when you go for your next refill.