BC PharmaCare provides new, expanded coverage

May 2, 2022 at 8:32 am  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

Thousands of people in B.C. will benefit from BC PharmaCare’s new and expanded coverage of medications for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, severe hypoglycemia, migraines, the treatment of low white blood cell levels, multiple sclerosis, heart failure, and birth control.

Effective April 12, 2022, vedolizumab (Entyvio), which is used in the treatment of moderately to severely active ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, has a new method of administration (subcutaneous injection) covered through BC PharmaCare. This offers patients more convenience as they can administer the medication themselves. Currently, this treatment is administered in clinical settings intravenously (IV) and is also covered through BC PharmaCare.

A glucagon intranasal spray (Baqsimi) for the treatment of severe hypoglycemia reactions is now covered as a regular benefit, effective April 5. Hypoglycemia symptoms, which can develop in diabetes patients treated with insulin, include trembling, palpitations, sweating, anxiety, hunger, nausea, difficulty concentrating, confusion, weakness, drowsiness, vision changes, difficulty speaking and even unconsciousness. The glucagon intranasal spray works by activating glucagon receptors that stimulate the breakdown of glycogen and the release of glucose from the liver. The intranasal spray is more accessible to patients than the current treatment, which is administered through an injection. In each of the first three years, approximately 2,500, 3,600 and 4,600 people are expected to benefit from this coverage, respectively.

Effective March 29, fremanezumab (Ajovy) was added to the formulary –  an official list of medicines that can be prescribed – as a limited coverage benefit for the treatment of chronic and episodic migraines. This coverage is expected to benefit more than 10,000 people each year. Migraines are a neurological disease characterized by recurrent pulsating headache pain that can last up to 74 hours. It is estimated that approximately 10% of Canadians suffer from migraines causing them to miss activities at work, school and home.

On March 22, a filgrastim biosimilar (Nivestym) for the prevention and treatment of low white blood cell levels was added as a limited coverage benefit. This is in addition to the first filgrastim biosimilar (Grastofil), which was added to the BC PharmaCare formulary in 2017.

Effective Jan. 25, 2022, BC PharmaCare made changes in its coverage of medications used to treat multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition that significantly impairs quality of life, limiting employment and social functioning, and is a major cause of disability in young adults.

Two new medications for the treatment of MS, cladribine (Mavenclad) and siponimod (Mayzent), were added to the formulary as a limited coverage benefit. Siponimod is also the only therapy approved by Health Canada for secondary progressive MS, which develops from relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). In the first year, approximately 130 people are expected to benefit from each medication.

As well, PharmaCare’s limited coverage criteria for medications used to treat RRMS were updated to include the latest diagnostic criteria, which allows patients with RRMS to be diagnosed earlier and more frequently, and are therefore now eligible for PharmaCare coverage for treatments earlier and more frequently.

Dapaglifozin (Forxiga) is a new medication used in addition to current therapies for the treatment of heart failure with reduced ejection fraction, meaning the muscle of the left ventricle is not pumping as well as normal. Hospitalizations due to heart failure are frequent, with 83% of patients hospitalized at least once and 43% of patients hospitalized four or more times after diagnosis. Dapaglifozin has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular death, hospitalization for heart failure and urgent heart failure visits. It was listed as a limited coverage benefit on the BC PharmaCare formulary on Jan. 11 and is expected to benefit 10,000 people in B.C. in the first year.

Etonogestrel (Nexplanon) was added to BC PharmaCare’s formulary as a regular benefit on Dec. 7, 2021. Etonogestrel is a long-acting contraceptive implant, and offers people in B.C. an alternative, low-cost option to birth control pills or intrauterine devices. The implant is placed discreetly in the upper arm, is 99% effective, and lasts three years.

Learn More:

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

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