People seeking treatment for an addiction to opioid drugs such as heroin, oxycodone or fentanyl now have easier access to a medication that helps them to stop using and to rebuild their lives, Health Minister Terry Lake announced today.
British Columbia’s public drug plan, PharmaCare, now covers the opioid-substitution drug Suboxone (buprenorphine and naloxone) as a regular benefit. Suboxone is an alternative treatment to methadone, and has been shown to be as safe and effective for most people with opioid addictions.
“Choosing to start treatment for an addiction is a major step, and we want to support patients in every way we can during that process,” said Lake. “This decision offers patients and their doctors more choices as they do that work to recover from an opioid addiction.”
As a result of the changes, patients being prescribed Suboxone as a treatment for an opioid addiction no longer need special approval to have PharmaCare help pay for the cost of the drug. Patients also no longer need to try methadone first, or prove methadone is not appropriate for them, before receiving coverage for Suboxone.
PharmaCare provides full coverage for generic versions of Suboxone, and also provides partial coverage for the brand version, up to the generic price.
Doctors trained and authorized to prescribe methadone and Suboxone now can simply write a prescription after discussing treatment options with patients.
The Ministry of Health has made access to Suboxone easier, based on new evidence about its safety and effectiveness.
“In the face of the prescription opioid epidemic and other challenges in treating opioid addiction in British Columbia, this is an evidence-based and thoughtful decision,” said Dr. Evan Wood, medical director for addiction services for Vancouver Coastal Health and a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia. “It has major positive implications for improving opioid addiction care, reducing deaths, illnesses, injuries and ultimately health-care costs in the province.”
While methadone is a proven and safe drug therapy that has helped many people in their recovery from addiction to opiates, Suboxone has several benefits as an alternative treatment to methadone.
- Suboxone is a pill, and is therefore a more discreet option for some patients.
- Its formulation means Suboxone is less likely to be used recreationally to get high, and therefore has little street value.
- It is a good option for patients who have had issues with methadone, such as side effects or a “wearing off” effect.
For more information about the PharmaCare program and the medications it covers, please visit: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/health-drug-coverage/pharmacare-for-bc-residents