Smoking Cessation Program – for prescribers
Last updated: January 16, 2023
On this page: Overview | Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) | Smoking cessation prescription drugs | Resources
The Smoking Cessation Program helps eligible B.C. residents of any age stop using tobacco products.
- Covers the full cost of specific non-prescription nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products, and
- Contributes to the cost of specific prescription smoking-cessation drugs
Nicotine replacement therapy
To be eligible for NRT coverage, patients must have active Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage.
PharmaCare will cover 100% of the cost of a single continuous course of treatment lasting up to 12 weeks (84 days) each calendar year (January 1 to December 31).
See the current list of NRT products eligible for full coverage.
How do patients get their NRTs?
- Patients don't need a prescription for NRTs
- Patients obtain NRTs from their local pharmacy
- Patient's don't need to call HealthLink BC (811) to register
- At the pharmacy, the patient must sign a BC Smoking Cessation Program Declaration and Notification (HLTH 5464)(PDF, 563KB) to receive their NRTs
Smoking cessation prescription drugs
PharmaCare covers smoking cessation prescription drugs for patients who have active MSP coverage.
Each calendar year, PharmaCare will cover a single continuous course of treatment lasting up to 12 weeks (84 days) of bupropion (Zyban®) or varenicline generics*. Each fill is limited to a 28-day supply.
The actual coverage a patient receives depends on the rules of their PharmaCare plan, as follows:
- PharmaCare covers 100% of the eligible cost of buproprion (Zyban®) or varenicline (generics) for patients covered under:
- For patients covered by Fair PharmaCare: the amount PharmaCare covers depends on whether the patient has met their annual deductible and/or family maximum. Patients should register for Fair PharmaCare before buying their prescription.
*Champix® (brand-name varenicline) is only a partial benefit under PharmaCare. See Eligible Smoking Cessation Products for low-cost alternatives.
How does my patient get their prescription smoking cessation drug?
- Physicians don't need to request Special Authority coverage for the initial 12-week course of treatment with Zyban® or varenicline generics
- Patients don't need to register with QuitNow BC
- Patients do need a prescription, and the prescription must specify:
- "smoking cessation" as the indication
- "no substitutions"
- "dispense in 28-day supply"
- When your patient fills their prescription at a pharmacy for the first time, they will be given a 28-day supply. They can return to the pharmacy near the end of their 28-day supply for a refill
Important: When prescribing Zyban®, indicate both the brand name and "smoking cessation" to ensure your patient receives coverage. PharmaCare covers only the Zyban® version of bupropion for smoking cessation (Wellbutrin®, Wellbutrin XL® and generic bupropion are not covered for this indication).
What if a patient needs to change or extend their course of treatment?
Patients can supplement PharmaCare coverage by paying any additional cost themselves or by claiming the additional cost through their extended health plan. Under exceptional circumstances, PharmaCare may permit a change in the currently covered course of treatment (e.g., switching from an NRT to a smoking cessation prescription drug or vice versa).
To help PharmaCare process the request quickly and reduce the need for us to contact you for clarification, provide as much information as possible, including:
- Patient diagnosis
- Current therapy (e.g., nicotine gum)
- Benefits of changing the current course of treatment (e.g., severe COPD)
- Reasons for the change (e.g., intolerance, co-existing disease)
- Length of treatment needed
- Name and dosage of the alternate product, if applicable
Important: Special Authority coverage is not retroactive.
For health professionals
The Ministry of Health supports physicians through the Prescription for Health Program, part of the Healthy Families BC strategy.
Under current MSP billing rules, physicians can conduct brief interventions for tobacco cessation during a regular office visit (series 0100) only if the patient is already seeing the physician for an underlying medical condition. Physicians cannot bill for an office visit if the sole purpose of that visit is to discuss tobacco cessation or to write a prescription under the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program.
However, under the Prescription for Health Program, physicians may bill a Personal Health Risk Assessment visit when developing a health promotion and illness prevention plan tailored to the medical and personal needs of an at-risk patient. 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 plan may or may not include the use of smoking cessation prescription and/or non-prescription medication aids or 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.
- Eligible smoking cessation medications
- Special Authority criteria—bupropion
- Special Authority criteria—varenicline
- Drug InterACTIONS with Tobacco Smoke (PDF, 655KB)
- Quit Now resources—includes a referral program to help you refer patients for support, free materials (posters, brochures), and videos with tips and techniques for supporting patients.
- PharmaCare posters and patient information sheets in 8 languages
- Smoking Cessation Program patient information sheets.
- Smoking Cessation Program online information—eligibility, coverage and procedures
- QuitNow.ca—resources for planning and managing smoking cessation, including the QuitNow Services NRT guide (PDF, 526KB), QuitNow library and videos on how to use nicotine gum and patches