PharmaCare Coverage of Drugs for the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

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Since 2007, temporary coverage for cholinesterase inhibitors was provided through the Alzheimer’s Drug Therapy Initiative to collect evidence of their effectiveness, safety, and cost-effectiveness in treating mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The Ministry of Health has completed its review and a decision has been made regarding ongoing coverage.

Effective April 1, 2016, PharmaCare covers donepezil for the treatment of mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease as a Limited Coverage benefit through the Special Authority process. Patients’ cognitive abilities are then reassessed  regularly, prior to renewal of the Special Authority approval, to ensure they are still benefiting from treatment.

What is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting over 70,000 British Columbians. It is not a normal part of aging–it is a progressively degenerative disease for which there is no known cause or cure. Brain cells shrink and are replaced by dense, irregularly-shaped spots called plaques. Threadlike tangles also develop within healthy brain cells, and eventually destroy them.

A group of drugs known as cholinesterase inhibitors appears to slow the progression of this disease. There is some evidence that these medications may improve or stabilize the cognitive, functional and behavioural abilities of some individuals in the mild to moderate stages of the disease.

PharmaCare coverage of cholinesterase inhibitors

PharmaCare is now covering donepezil as a Limited Coverage drug through its Special Authority process. This drug does not cure Alzheimer’s disease but may slow its progression in some people in the mild to moderate stages of the disease. If a patient cannot tolerate donepezil, their physician can request coverage for galantamine or rivastigmine (capsule only).


B.C.’s leading experts in the fields of dementia and aging conducted the research into Alzheimer’s drug therapy. For more information, see the Alzheimer Drug Therapy Review Reports.

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Questions about PharmaCare?

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