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Access to smoking cessation medications brings provinces/territories one step closer to becoming smoke-free

KIRKLAND, QC, Oct. 4, 2011 /CNW/ - Quitting smoking will now be easier in British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan thanks to the Provincial/Territorial Governments' provision of access to smoking cessation medications, including Champix® (varenicline tartrate) and other smoking cessation aids, to assist in the fight against nicotine addiction.

"While many believe smoking to be a lifestyle choice, we know that in reality, it is a serious addiction that is difficult to overcome," explains Heather Borquez, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Canadian Lung Association. "With improved access to programs, supports and assistance, including medications, a real difference can be made to support smokers who want to become smoke-free and ultimately, further reduce Canada's smoking rates."

In 2007, the Common Drug Review recommended provinces reimburse Champix for smoking cessation. British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan have now joined Quebec as provincial/territorial jurisdictions providing access to smoking cessation aids.

"Providing access to smoking cessation medications is a significant health policy step that makes the difference in the lives of Canadians," said Paul Lévesque, President of Pfizer Canada. "The Governments of British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan should be commended for their commitments to helping people overcome their smoking addiction. Now, employers need to follow-suit by doing their part by also ensuring Canadians with private health care coverage have the same opportunities to quit. Companies who invest in tangible programs to support health and well-being initiatives reap the rewards with lower absenteeism, as well as improved motivation, better stress management and productivity among their workforce. Coverage of smoking cessation medications is key part of a comprehensive health program in the work place."

Smoking Cessation in British Columbia
In British Columbia, 14 per cent of the population continues to smoke1.

As of September 30, 2011, the province will provide 100 per cent coverage of select over the counter nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) or PharmaCare coverage of Champix or Zyban® (bupropion) to patients registered in a PharmaCare plan. The coverage for Champix or Zyban is for a course of treatment lasting up to 12 consecutive weeks in duration per calendar year with no requirement that the prescriber submit a Special Authority form on behalf of the patient, and with no eligibility requirement of prior nicotine replacement therapy.2

Smoking Cessation in the Northwest Territories
Approximately 37 per cent of the population in the Northwest Territories smokes.3

To help curb the rate of smoking, and as of August 12, 2011, the Territorial Government covers the cost of approximately three months' worth of smoking cessation medications for residents under NWT health care benefits.4

Smoking Cessation in Ontario
Currently, one in approximately six Ontarians (or 2.1 million people) is addicted to smoking, and thirty-five of them will die each day from tobacco-related illness.1,5

Through the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) Program more than 300,000 smokers in Ontario will benefit from 12 weeks of reimbursement of Champix or Zyban.6 Those who benefit from ODB will also have access to counseling through the Pharmacy Smoking Cessation Program. As part of this program, community pharmacists will provide one-to-one support service and advice to these recipients who want to give up smoking. The program includes a readiness assessment where a patient may enroll in the smoking cessation program with the pharmacy, and counseling sessions over a one-year period.7

Smoking Cessation in Alberta
Smoking rates in Alberta have risen over the past year from 18 per cent to 19 per cent.1 Prescription smoking cessation therapies are an important component of Alberta's Tobacco Reduction Strategy to assist Albertans to quit smoking, improve their overall health, and decrease the health care costs associated with tobacco use.

Albertans who receive coverage through the Seniors Plan, Income Support, and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (or Group 1 Non-Group Coverage) are eligible for this program. Individuals will be required to participate in one of the designated smoking cessation counseling programs, which include QuitCore (group counseling) and Smokers' Help Line (telephone counseling).8

Smoking Cessation in Saskatchewan
In Saskatchewan, a province with one of the highest rates of smoking in the country at 21 percent, the provincial formulary listing added Champix and Zyban at the start of the year for coverage for 12 weeks of treatment per person, during a one-year period.1,9

Understanding Nicotine Addiction
Though many smokers want to quit, it's a powerful addiction to overcome. Nicotine is a "reinforcing" drug, which means that users desire the drug regardless of the damaging effects.10  Over time, a person becomes physically and emotionally addicted to nicotine.11 On average, only between five and 10 per cent of smokers manage to successfully quit cold turkey.12

The Impact of Smoking
In Canada, tobacco kills 37,000 people each year, making it a major public health issue.13 According to Health Canada, up to half of all smokers will die from their smoking, most of them before their 70th birthday and only after years of suffering a reduced quality of life.13

Smoking is the single most important preventable cause of lung cancer, contributing to 85 per cent of all new cases in Canada.14  Other respiratory ailments associated with smoking include coughing, phlegm, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, and can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).13 Smoking also increases a person's risk of developing heart disease and stroke by contributing to the build-up of plaque in arteries, increased risk of blood clots, blood pressure, and reduced oxygen in the blood.15

Beyond the personal toll, tobacco use costs Canada billions of dollars each year. Despite the reduced rate of smoking, health care costs have increased steadily since 1966.16 In 2002, tobacco use accounted for $17 billion in health care costs including $12.5 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity, longer-term disability and premature death.16

About Pfizer Canada
Pfizer Canada Inc. is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc, the world's leading biopharmaceutical company. The company is one of the largest contributors to health research in Canada. Our diversified health care portfolio includes human and animal biologic and small molecule medicines and vaccines, as well as nutritional products and many of the world's best-known consumer products.

Every day, Pfizer Canada employees work to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. We apply science and our global resources to improve the health and well-being of Canadians at every stage of life.

Our commitment is reflected in everything we do, from our disease awareness initiatives to our community partnerships, to our belief that it takes more than medication to be truly healthy. To learn more about Pfizer's More Than Medication philosophy and programs, visit To learn more about Pfizer Canada, visit

More Than Medication™ is a registered trademark of Pfizer Canada Inc.


1 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey (CTUMS).  Smoking Prevalence 1999 - 2010.  Accessed September 2011.

2 British Columbia Ministry of Health. PharmaCare formulary search. .  Accessed September 2011

3 Northwest Territories Bureau of Statistics.  Smoking.  Accessed September 2011.

4 Northwest Territories.  GNWT Encourages Smokers to Live a Smoke Free Life.  Accessed September 2011.

5 Government of Ontario.  Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.  Population-Based Strategies for Smoking Cessation.  Accessed September 2011.

6 Applied Management Consultants. Private Coverage report for Champix (varenicline). June 2011. 

7 Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.  Pharmacy Smoking Cessation Program.  Accessed September 2011.

8 Government of Alberta.  Alberta Works Health Benefits.  Accessed September 2011.

9 Government of Saskatchewan.  Drug Plan and Extended Benefits Branch.  Accessed September 2011.

10 Health Canada. Tobacco Effects. Accessed September 2011.

11 American Cancer Society: Guide to Quitting Smoking. Accessed at Accessed September 2011.

12 Hughes, J.  New Treatments for Smoking Cessation.  CA Cancer J Clin.  200; 50: 143-151.

13 Health Canada Overview of Risks of Smoking Accessed September 2011.

14 Health Canada. Smoking and Your Body. Accessed September 2011.

15 Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. Smoking, Heart Disease and Stroke.  Accessed September 2011.

16 Life and Breath: Respiratory Disease in Canada Accessed September 2011.

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