FAQ: What is the difference between PharmaCare and PharmaNet data?

Printer-friendly version


Population Data BC holds PharmaCare data on prescription drugs paid for under the BC Ministry of Health PharmaCare program; these are a subset of the prescriptions issued in BC.

PharmaCare is BC's public drug insurance program that assists BC residents in paying for eligible prescription drugs and designated medical supplies. Until May 1, 2003, the PharmaCare program consisted of seven separate coverage plans, some targeting specific subsets of the population, such as seniors, long-term care residents or social services clients, and one catastrophic plan for everyone not otherwise covered. These plans offered relatively comprehensive coverage for some groups such as senior citizens, and fixed-deductible catastrophic coverage for others. Data on prescription drugs paid for under these coverage plans are available in the data files held by Population Data BC for 1986 until the introduction of Fair PharmaCare in May 1, 2003. More information on which data fields are available through Population Data BC PharmaCare data files and the former PharmaCare plans.

On May 1, 2003 the Fair PharmaCare plan was introduced, combining two of the former major plans, the universal catastrophic plan and the seniors' plan, into one new plan with deductibles based on family net income. These coverage changes under the PharmaCare program mean that after May 1, 2003, the data captured by PharmaCare have changed. Prescription drug use below the deductible levels does not appear in the PharmaCare data, but drug use over the deductible does appear. Thus, after May 2003, a smaller proportion of the population has comprehensive data in the PharmaCare system. For example, one can no longer easily study drug use by seniors, as only a subset of their drug prescriptions appear in the data - those obtained after they have reached their family deductible for the year. Fair PharmaCare is based on family rather than individual net income. This means that one high drug use family member may pull a family across the financial threshold, so that even a first prescription for other family members may be recorded in the data. More information on the PharmaCare program and the Fair PharmaCare plan is available on the BC Ministry of Health website at: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/pharmacare/index.html#.

To request access to PharmaCare data, you must complete the relevant sections on the Population Data BC Data Access Request form and PharmaCare Data checklist. Visit: www.popdata.bc.ca/data/internal/health/PharmCare


PharmaNet is a province-wide network that links all BC pharmacies to a central set of data systems. It supports drug dispensing, drug monitoring and claims processing. The PharmaNet system contains data related to both medications dispensed and PharmaCare claims. All prescription medications dispensed by community pharmacies in BC are recorded in the PharmaNet system. Although the PharmaNet data is not part of the Population Data BC holdings at this time, it can be linked to data held by Population Data BC.

The PharmaNet data start from January 1, 1996. More information about PharmaNet can also be found at: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/pharmacare/pharmanet/netindex.html.

To request access to PharmaNet data, you must complete the relevant sections on the Population Data BC Data Access Request form, PharmaNet Data checklist and PharmaNet Drug List.

Please be aware that there is currently a separate data extraction charge for the PharmaNet data (in addition to PopData fees).

More information on PharmaNet data may be found at: https://www.popdata.bc.ca/data/external/PharmaNet

Researchers should only request data from either the PharmaCare file or from PharmaNet, but not both, unless a valid reason is provided, e.g. PharmaCare data requested for the years prior to the introduction of PharmaNet.

< back to FAQs

Page last revised: December 5, 2013