Pharmacare modernizes Reference Drug Program

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Effective June 1, 2016: The Ministry of Health is updating and expanding Pharmacare’s Reference Drug Program, with a focus on meeting the medical needs of patients. The Reference Drug Program is a part of Pharmacare, British Columbia’s public drug plan. The program groups certain types of drugs that treat the same illness or medical condition into categories. Pharmacare covers the cost of the less expensive drugs in the category (called the reference drug), or the partial cost for more expensive ones.

As of June 1, 2016, the Reference Drug Program added three new categories of drugs and changed the reference drugs in three existing categories. Two categories remain unchanged. Patients may choose to take the reference drug in a category or pay the difference in cost for one of the more expensive drugs. Affected patients will have until December 1, 2016, to make a decision about their medication.

Coverage for approximately 56,000 patients with more complex medical needs will be automatically grandfathered and they will retain full coverage of their current medications. Patients with a valid medical reason why they cannot take the reference drug in a category can ask their doctor or nurse practitioner to apply for full coverage of one of the other drugs.

The changes to the Reference Drug Program will save about $27 million over three years. The Ministry of Health will reinvest the savings into the Pharmacare program, to cover more medications and supplies for more people.

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