Methods and medications

Find the options that best suit you.

Accessing prescription medications and nicotine replacement therapy in BC

You can get coverage for up to 12 weeks for one of the following two options:
prescription medications or Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT).

More about your coverage

Prescription medications

Prescription medications do not contain nicotine but reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by affecting how nicotine interacts with your brain. Using quitting medications can increase your chances of quitting smoking successfully. It's even more effective when combined with counselling support.
Brand Name
Name
Advantage
PharmaCare BC Coverage
Champix®
Varenicline
Blocks effects of nicotine
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Zyban®
Bupropion
Makes smoking less pleasurable
Covered by PharmaCare BC
More detailsHide details

Bupropion (Zyban®) is one of two prescription medications covered under The PharmaCare BC Smoking Cessation program.

Learn more about your coverage.

Effectiveness

When used as directed, there is evidence that buproprion can increase your chances of quitting successfully.

Advantages

Buproprion is a prescription-only drug treatment that works by changing the brain's response to nicotine. It makes smoking less pleasurable and reduces cravings while you work on your smoking habits. Other advantages include:

  • It doesn't contain nicotine.
  • It can delay weight gain after quitting for some people.

Common side effects

  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Shakiness or nervousness
  • Weight loss

How to use

Bupropion is available as a pill that you take by mouth. 

  • Start taking bupropion about two weeks before you quit smoking. This builds up the level of medicine in your body.
  • Continue to smoke as usual while taking bupropion until your quit date.
  • You can take bupropion with or without food.
  • The recommended dose of bupropion to help you quit smoking is:
    • Days 1-3: Take one 150mg tablet once a day in the morning.
    • Day 4 to the end of treatment: Take one 150 mg tablet twice a day, once in the morning and once in the early evening  (at least 8 hours between doses).
    • The recommended length of bupropion therapy is seven to twelve weeks.
       

Warnings & precautions

As with any prescription medication, there are benefits and risks to taking bupropion. Health Canada has determined that for bupropion, the benefits outweigh the risks.

Do not use bupropion if one of the following applies to you:

  • Currently using bupropion for another reason (such as Wellbutrin for depression)
  • Have an allergy to bupropion
  • Have a seizure disorder
  • Have an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia
  • Heavy alcohol drinker who plans to quit drinking abruptly
  • Currently use or recently (in the last two weeks) have used a class of medications called Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAO-I)
  • Currently using a drug called thioridazine

Speak to a doctor or pharmacist about whether bupropion is right for you if one of the following applies to you:

  • Liver or kidney problems
  • Pregnant or breast-feeding
  • High blood pressure
  • Less than 18 years old
  • Currently taking medications that can increase your risk of seizures

Stop bupropion and speak to your doctor or healthcare provider immediately if you experience:

  • Agitation
  • Depressed mood
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviour

Nicotine replacement therapy

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) works by providing the body with nicotine to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings. NRT is one of the most effective tools to help people quit and can increase your chances of quit success. It's even more effective when combined with counselling.
Name
Release Type
Advantage
PharmaCare BC Coverage
Nicotine gum
Short-acting
Good for occasional smokers
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine lozenges
Short-acting
Different strengths available
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine patch
Long-acting
Good for heavy smokers
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine inhaler
Short-acting
Choose how often to use it
Covered by PharmaCare BC
Nicotine mouth spray
Short-acting
Choose how often to use it
Not covered by PharmaCare BC

Combination Nicotine Replacement Therapy

What is combination NRT?

Combination NRT is using two forms of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to increase your chance of successfully quitting, as follows:

  • Long-acting NRT (nicotine patch) to provide steady levels of nicotine.

  • Short-acting NRT (gum, lozenge, inhaler or spray) to help reduce breakthrough cravings or deal with challenging situations. 

Effectiveness

  • Combining a long-acting nicotine patch with a short-acting NRT like nicotine gum, when used as directed, can increase quit rates compared to using a single NRT product. 

Who are good candidates for combination NRT?

Combination NRT may be appropriate for people who:

  • Have used NRT in previous quit attempts but relapsed while using it.
  • Feel they need something more than a patch or other single form of NRT to deal with intense cravings to smoke.

Talk to your doctor prior to using any kind of combination therapy, including combining NRTs, or combining prescription smoking cessation therapy with NRTs. Be sure to review how to use each NRT product properly, including the warnings and precautions for each product.

Other methods

There are other quit methods and approaches that people use to quit, but some are more effective than others. Read more about which methods will increase your likelihood of quitting in the long run.
Name
Advantage
PharmaCare BC Coverage
Cytisine
Reduces pleasure to nicotine
Not covered by PharmaCare BC
E-cigarettes / Vaping
Reduces exposure to harmful chemicals
Not covered by PharmaCare BC
Gradual reduction
Keep you engaged in a positive behavior change
Not applicable by PharmaCare BC
Alternative therapies
Variety of options available
Not applicable by PharmaCare BC
Cold turkey
Not applicable
Not applicable by PharmaCare BC

Questions about symptoms or your health?

Make sure to talk to your healthcare provider to understand how different medications will interact and about your personal health.