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300,000 have received free contraceptives, expanded pharmacist care

CANADA, December 8 - Nearly 300,000 people have benefited from free contraceptives and being able to see a pharmacist for treatment of minor ailments or contraceptives since government expanded the scope of practice for pharmacists on June 1, 2023.

“People in B.C. are feeling squeezed by everyday costs,” said Premier David Eby. “That’s why we made contraceptives free and began allowing pharmacists to prescribe medications for minor ailments like rashes, infections and allergies. This has relieved pressure on clinics and ERs, and saved British Columbians hundreds of dollars on contraceptives every year. This is just one way we’re making health care more accessible and making life more affordable.”

Between April 1 and Nov. 28, 2023, more than 188,000 people received free contraceptives. This includes more than 123,000 people who received hormonal pill contraceptives, more than 30,000 people who received intrauterine devices (IUD) and more than 37,000 people who obtained emergency contraceptives.

British Columbia is the first and only province in Canada to provide universal free contraceptives to all residents under the BC Pharmacare program. Prior to April 1, 2023, hormonal pills cost as much as $25 a month or $300 a year. IUDs had an upfront cost of up to $400.

“Expanding the scope of practice for pharmacists to provide prescriptions for minor ailments and contraceptives and fully covering the costs of many contraceptives are two tangible actions that people are seeing immense benefits from,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Removing barriers to health care is a major priority of our government, and we will continue working to ensure that people in B.C. have access to the health care and services they need.”

Since expanding the services pharmacists can provide on June 1, more than 132,000 people saw a pharmacist about a minor ailment. Around the province, 1,367 pharmacies are participating. The top three minor ailments that patients received treatment for are urinary tract infections, allergies and conjunctivitis.

Access to health care has been made easier and more convenient with the provincial online booking system that allows people to book an appointment to see a pharmacist.

“Government is breaking down barriers to help people save their hard-earned money and access the health care they need close to home,” said Susie Chant, MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour. “Hundreds of thousands of people are already benefiting from free contraceptives, and pharmacists being able to prescribe for minor ailments. This is an important step forward in empowering people to take charge of their health. Now that pharmacists can prescribe for minor ailments and many contraceptives are free, families are better able to manage their health and their budget.”

BC PharmaCare covers the full cost of more than 60 commonly used birth-control methods, including hormonal pill contraceptives, copper and hormonal IUDs, hormonal injections, a vaginal ring and the morning-after pill. Providing universal coverage of contraception supports government’s commitment to make health care more affordable and accessible.

Expanding pharmacists’ scope of practice is part of B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, announced on Sept. 29, 2022, to ensure people get the health services they need, and that people are cared for by a healthy workforce. Earlier this week, government provided a Year 1 report demonstrating the significant progress made on recruiting, training and retaining health-care workers, while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.

Quick Facts:

  • Some people may have accessed more than one type of contraceptive, or more than one of the same type of contraceptive.
  • 188,000 is the total number of people who have received at least one contraceptive.

Learn More:

To learn more about pharmacists’ scope of practice expansion, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HLTH0074-000859  

To learn more about the universal coverage of contraceptives in B.C., visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2023HLTH0016-000289

To read the one-year update of B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/HealthHumanResourcesStrategyOneyearUpdate-December2023.pdf 

A backgrounder follows.