3.5 Patients - Restricted Claimant Program

General Policy Description

Prescription medications are sometimes misused. Misused medications may include, but are not limited to, analgesics containing codeine, other narcotics, asthma medications and sleeping pills. The Restricted Claimant Program assists in reducing misuse by limiting coverage for certain patients to medications prescribed by a single prescriber and/or medications dispensed by a single pharmacy.

PharmaCare Audit oversees the program but day-to-day administration is handled by Health Insurance BC.

Policy Details

Pharmacists, physicians and other health care professionals may contact PharmaCare to request restrictions for particular patients.

Requests can be processed by the PharmaNet Help Desk from 9 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday except for statutory holidays.

PharmaCare is responsible for determining whether to restrict patient access to prescription medications that may be misused, by assigning one (or more) specific physician(s) and/or a single pharmacy on PharmaNet. 

Potential restrictions are identified from routine monthly reports. The evaluation and decision process involves a review of the patient’s claims history by a designated pharmacist. Such evaluations may also result from pharmacist/physician requests.

For each patient to be restricted, PharmaCare takes one or both of the following two actions:

  1. Immediately adds a “Restricted Access” against the patient PHN on PharmaNet.
    This invalidates the PHN for all PharmaCare benefits (that is, PharmaCare will not contribute towards the cost of any prescription for the PHN) until information about the patient’s physician and pharmacy are added.
  2. Places a call to the patient’s physician, to confirm that they are indeed that patient’s physician. 
    ​If confirmed, the physician is recorded on the patient’s PharmaNet file as the “physician of restriction.” (If the patient’s pharmacy is known, it is also recorded on PharmaNet.) Or, the physician may provide an explanation that avoids a restriction.

A letter is sent to the “restricted claimant” advising of the restricted status and asking for the name of one physician and/or pharmacy, if this information has not already been obtained. Additional physicians, particularly specialists, will occasionally be added.

Once a patient has been classified as a “restricted claimant,” PharmaCare will only consider lifting the restriction

  • After the patient has been restricted to that physician for at least six months, and 
  • Upon written request from the patient’s physician.

The physician makes the request to lift the restriction in writing (by fax or letter) to PharmaCare. A designated pharmacist evaluates the request to lift a restriction by reviewing the patient’s claims history. The physician is then notified of the decision by letter.

The lifting of a restriction takes effect immediately. 

In emergency circumstances, PharmaNet Help Desk staff may make one-day changes to the patient’s designated doctor or pharmacy.

Exceptions are made only if the patient is unable to see their own doctor or get to their own pharmacy and if not filling the prescription could result in serious harm to the patient. 

When a pharmacist calls to request a special exception, they will be asked a series of questions which PharmaNet Help Desk staff use to determine if financial coverage should be provided. 

PharmaNet Help Desk staff will assess if there is a sufficiently good reason why

  • The patient is unable to see their own doctor or go to their own pharmacy (i.e., doctor on vacation, pharmacy is closed), and 
  • This prescription must be filled at this time (i.e., there is a serious health consideration rather than simply a request for an early refill). 

The PharmaNet Help Desk is available Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4 pm. After-hours requests are subject to a more rigorous approval process because of the difficulty in following up with doctors.

Replacement of lost or stolen medications is not covered for patients on this program. 

All special exceptions must be obtained before dispensing as there is no retroactive coverage. 

During normal business hours (9 am to 4 pm, Monday through Friday), the PharmaNet Help Desk can answer calls from patients, pharmacists or physicians regarding restrictions. Or, pharmacists can call the PharmaCare Information Line and choose Option 3 on the main menu to bypass the Help Desk and leave a message requesting a call back.

PharmaNet Help Desk staff may not disclose details of a patient’s previous prescriptions. Pharmacists can check the medication history returned by PharmaNet.

When PharmaNet returns a “Pharmacy not authorized” or “Physician not authorized” message, pharmacists may contact the PharmaNet Help Desk for more information.

Changes to the patient’s designated physician or pharmacy cannot be made automatically at a pharmacist's request. The decision is made, based on PharmaCare policy, by PharmaCare in consultation with Ministry of Health pharmacists and physicians.

After-hours, pharmacists may call the PharmaNet Help Desk to ask about restrictions. PharmaNet Help Desk staff follow PharmaCare policy/guidelines in handling all after-hours enquiries about restricted claimants.

PharmaNet Help Desk staff may not disclose details of a patient’s previous prescriptions. Pharmacists can check the medication history returned by PharmaNet.

If a pharmacist calls after hours, any change made by PharmaNet Help Desk personnel (i.e., to the designated physician or pharmacy) will normally be in effect for no more than one business day. After-hours approval will not generally be given for drugs that are frequently misused.

If a restriction is changed temporarily to allow the processing of a specific prescription, only that prescription may be processed. Submission of additional prescriptions will be subject to audit and recovery.

To request a permanent change regarding a restricted claimant, the pharmacist will have to call during normal business hours and speak to PharmaNet Help Desk staff.

The PharmaNet Help Desk cannot make changes to restrictions when they are requested by a patient after hours.