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

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
More detailsHide details

Effectiveness

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

Advantages

  • Easy to use - just put it on once per day and forget about it.
  • Useful for heavier smokers who need steady release of nicotine.
  • Designed to temporarily replace some of the nicotine that cigarettes would normally supply and thus reduce the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal such as cravings, irritability and anxiety.
  • You can choose the strength of the dosage. This is dependent on the number of cigarettes you smoke per day. See below for suggested dosages or talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

Common side effects

  • Headaches
  • Cold or flu-like symptoms
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep problems
  • Vivid dreams
  • Stomach upset
  • Mild itching, burning and tingling are normal in the first hour of wearing the patch
  • Redness of the skin when the patch is removed

Note: Remove the patch and consult your doctor if you experience chest pain, irregular heartbeat, palpitations, leg pain or persistent stomach upset while using the patch.

How to use the patch

  • Dosing should be individualized based on how much you smoke.
  • The patch should be applied and left on the skin for 24 hours per day. Other patch products may be different.
  • The patch comes in three patch sizes, which give doses of 21 mg/day (Step 1), 14 mg/day (Step 2) and 7 mg/day (Step 3).
  • Typically a pack-a-day smoker would wear each size for 3 to 4 weeks, gradually reducing nicotine delivery by going to Step 1 to Step 2 to Step 3.

Note: For more info on getting the proper dosage, read the package insert, consult with your physician, pharmacist or contact our QuitLine at 1.877.455.2233 and speak with a Quit Coach.

Things to remember

  • Mild itching, burning and tingling are normal in the first hour of wearing the patch.
  • Do not use more than one nicotine patch at a time. Using more than one would increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
  • Do not cut or trim the patch. This will interfere with how the nicotine is released to the patch. Only use the nicotine patch as directed.
  • Remove the patch two hours before prolonged strenuous activity or going scuba diving. These activities may increase your risk of experiencing side effects.
  • If you find yourself still craving cigarettes while using the patch, speak with your doctor or pharmacist to see what options (such as using nicotine gum and the patch together) are available for you. But remember that PharmaCare will only cover one smoking cessation aid per calendar year: January 1st through December 31st.
     

Warnings & precautions

Do not use the patch if you have severe eczema, psoriasis or other generalized skin disorders.

Consult your pharmacist or physician prior to using the patch if the following apply to you:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Being treated for any serious heart condition.
  • Heart attack or stroke within the last 2 weeks.
  • Require kidney dialysis.
  • Use any prescribed medication regularly. Smoking alters the effects of some medications, and when you quit smoking it may be necessary for your doctor to adjust the doses, especially if you are diabetic, taking medications for high blood pressure or heart disease, or taking antidepressants, tranquilizers or sleeping pills.

Stop using the patch immediately and see your doctor if you have:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Palpitations
  • Leg pain
  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Rash or hives

Coverage of Nicotine Patches for BC Residents 

Each calendar year, eligible BC residents can receive up to a three month supply of Nicoderm® patch (7 mg, 14 mg, 21 mg) through the PharmaCare BC Smoking Cessation Program. You can find more information about how to access this program here.

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.