Province expands access to opioid agonist treatment medications
British Columbia is taking action on the toxic drug crisis by being the first province in Canada to provide universal coverage for eligible medications used for the treatment of opioid-use disorder.
“Improving access to medication is an important part of strengthening the public health-care system,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “By reducing financial barriers to opioid agonist treatment medication, we’re making it easier for people to get the care they need and helping create more equitable health outcomes for people in B.C.”
Effective June 6, 2023, opioid agonist treatment (OAT) medications will be covered through Plan Z, the Province’s universal coverage plan, providing full coverage for B.C. residents with an active medical services plan (MSP).
OAT, also referred to as medication-assisted treatment, is an option for people struggling with opioid-use disorder. It has been shown to improve retention in treatment, sustained abstinence from illicit opioid use, and helps reduce the risk of death. OAT differs from prescribed safer supply. Safer supply is a harm-reduction model of care in which clinicians prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to illicit drugs in order to separate people from the toxic illicit street-drug market. However, prescribed safer supply can often be a first step for someone to begin accessing addictions care, including OAT.
“The toxic drug crisis continues to claim lives at an unprecedented rate. When people reach out for help, we want them met with support regardless of the size of their pocketbook,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Removing these cost barriers to medication-assisted treatment will help more people stabilize their lives, prevent deaths and stay on their journey to wellness as our government continues to build a system of mental-health and addictions care that works for everyone.”
In fiscal year 2021-22, of the 34,520 patients who utilized OAT medications, 32,882 received coverage through PharmaCare. Effective June 6, 2023, approximately 1,638 patients who paid out of pocket will now be 100% covered for eligible OAT medication costs under Plan Z for residents with MSP coverage.
Additionally, eligible B.C. patients who did not access OAT medications due to the cost or because of challenges getting registered for Plan G or getting tax information to register for Fair PharmaCare will now have immediate, barrier-free access to OAT medication.
To learn more about BC PharmaCare, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/health-drug-coverage/pharmacare-for-bc-residents
To learn more about the new drug listings, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/health-drug-coverage/pharmacare-for-bc-residents/drug-review-process-results/drug-review-decisions