Guide for Pharmacy Benefits: Non-insured Health Benefits

August 24, 2018

This Guide provides information on Indigenous Services Canada's Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program and its policies relevant to pharmacy benefit coverage. It explains the extent and limitations of the NIHB Program's pharmacy benefits by describing the important elements of each associated policy. It also lists website addresses to provide quick access to related forms and more detailed Program information.

Refer to the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit, available at Express Scripts Canada for the process to submit claims for payment of goods and services rendered to eligible clients.

Table of contents

1.0 Introduction

Indigenous Services Canada's Non-Insured Health Benefits Program is a national program that provides eligible First Nations and Inuit with coverage for a range of medically necessary health benefits when these benefits are not otherwise covered through private or provincial/territorial health insurance plans or social programs.

NIHB Program benefits include prescription drugs and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, dental and vision care, medical supplies and equipment, mental health counselling, and transportation to access medically required health services that are not available on the reserve or in the community of residence.

As Pharmacy benefit policies and procedures evolve, the Guide is updated accordingly and providers are advised of these changes through the NIHB Newsletters and broadcast messages distributed by Express Scripts Canada. Clients are advised through the Program Updates.

Providers are advised to read and retain the most current version of the Guide as well as Newsletters to ensure continued compliance with their Express Scripts Provider Agreement for the NIHB Program. In the event of a contradiction between versions of the Guide, the provisions of the NIHB Program’s web-posted Guide will prevail.

References to or the use of 'dispensing fee', 'usual and customary dispensing fee', or any variation thereof are subject to reimbursement up to the regional maximum of the Program. Pharmacy providers in Quebec should refer to the agreement between Indigenous Services Canada (formerly Health Canada) and l’Association Québécoise des Pharmaciens Propriétaires (AQPP) for reimbursement details.

2.0 Benefit Description and Conditions

The pharmacy, or drug component, of the NIHB Program covers drugs and over-the-counter medications that are included on the NIHB Drug Benefit List (DBL) and prescribed by an NIHB recognized health professional, licensed to prescribe in a given provincial jurisdiction, such as a prescriber.

Eligible pharmacy benefits are based on policies established by NIHB's Drugs and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (DTAC), Health Canada, and Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), to provide eligible clients with access to benefits not otherwise available under federal, provincial, territorial, or private health insurance plans.

Pharmacy benefits are covered in accordance with the mandate of the NIHB Program. This includes 'open benefits' which are listed on the DBL and do not require prior approval, and 'limited use benefits' which are on the DBL and may be eligible for coverage, if the criteria for coverage are met.

Clients of the NIHB Program do not pay deductibles or co-payments.

2.1 Terms and Conditions of Services

To be eligible for payment of services rendered, pharmacy providers must adhere to the terms and conditions of the NIHB Program. These are detailed within the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit, including the procedures for verifying client eligibility, claims eligibility, submission, adjudication, payment, reversals, and audit.

It is the pharmacist's responsibility to verify benefit eligibility for the client (at the time of dispensing), to ensure that no limitations under the Program will be exceeded, and to ensure compliance with NIHB benefit criteria and policies.

Please ensure the name indicated on the prescription matches the identity of the Status Card presented at the time of dispense. Note: all Alias names should be registered by the client with the Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).

2.2 Drug Benefit List (DBL)

The Program maintains a formulary called the Drug Benefit List (DBL) which includes eligible drugs primarily used in a home or ambulatory setting. The DBL is published annually on the Government of Canada’s website, and changes made to the DBL during the year will continue to be communicated via DBL Updates, Newsletters and fax broadcasts.

Please refer to the Drug Benefit List for an electronic version.

A prescription from an NIHB recognized licensed prescriber is required for any listed drug to be processed as a benefit under the NIHB Program. The prescriber must be in good standing with the appropriate governing body, province or territory in which they practice, and the prescription must be written in accordance with the applicable provincial or territorial prescriber guidelines. Prescribers include, but are not limited to, medical doctors, medical specialists, dentists, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners corresponding to respective provincial or territorial legislation and policies.

Drugs considered for, or currently listed on, the DBL must meet the minimum criteria. For example, they must be legally available for sale in Canada with a Notice of Compliance (NOC). The drugs must also demonstrate evidence of therapeutic efficacy, safety, and incremental benefit in proportion to incremental cost.

NIHB Program drug benefits are based on the judgement of recognized health professionals, consistent with the best practices of health services delivery and evidence-based standards of care.

The review process for drug products that are considered for inclusion as a benefit under the NIHB Program varies depending on the type of drug submitted.

Submissions for new chemical entities, new combination drug products and existing chemical entities with new indications, must be sent to the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). Clinical and pharmacoeconomic reviews are coordinated by the Common Drug Review (CDR) Directorate and forwarded to the Canadian Drug Expert Committee (CDEC) for recommendations on formulary listing. These recommendations are forwarded to participating drug plans, including the NIHB Program, for consideration. The NIHB Program and other drug plans make listing decisions based on CDEC recommendations and other specific relevant factors, such as mandate, priorities, client safety and resources.

Submissions for line extensions, generics and all other submissions are reviewed internally or by the Drugs and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (DTAC). Generic drug products are considered for inclusion on the formulary based on provincial interchangeability lists and other relevant factors.

Should you have any questions regarding the DBL, please contact the Express Scripts Canada Provider Claims Processing Call Centre Toll-Free at 1-888-511-4666.

2.3 Open Benefits

Open benefits are drugs listed on the DBL which do not have established criteria, gender or age limitations, or prior approval requirements. This means that, in most cases, pharmacy providers may submit claims for dispensing 'open benefit' drugs without receiving prior approval requirements.

Open benefits may include specific eligible items in the following categories:

  • prescription drugs;
  • over-the-counter medications;
  • injectable drugs, including injectable allergy serums;
  • extemporaneous mixtures;
  • drug delivery devices, as required, to deliver medications for certain conditions;
  • recognized non-oral contraceptive devices; and
  • therapeutic vitamins and minerals.

2.4 Limited Use Benefits

Limited use benefits are drug products listed on the DBL that may not be appropriate for general listing, but have value in specific circumstances. These products will have specific criteria for provision as a benefit under the NIHB Program. A product will be designated for limited use when:

  1. it has the potential for widespread use outside the indications for which a health benefit has been demonstrated;
  2. it has proven effectiveness, but is associated with predictable severe adverse effects;
  3. it is usually a second or third line choice for treatment and is required because of allergies, intolerance, treatment failure or noncompliance with a first line alternative; or
  4. it is very costly and a therapeutically effective alternative is available as a benefit.

There are three types of limited use benefits:

  1. Limited use benefits which do not require prior approval. These include but are not limited to:
    • multivitamins (which are benefits for children up to six years of age); and
    • prenatal and postnatal vitamins (which are benefits for women of childbearing age (12 to 50 years).
  2. Benefits which have a quantity and/or frequency limit. A maximum quantity of drug is allowed within a specified period of time. No prior approval is required for the recipient to obtain the allowable quantity of drug within the specified period. An example of a category of drugs with a quantity and frequency limit is Proton Pump Inhibiters (PPI).
  3. Limited use benefits which require prior approval (using the “Limited Use Drugs Request Form”). Limited use benefits and the criteria for their coverage are identified in the Drug Benefit List. The criteria are also listed on the forms faxed to prescribers for completion.

2.5 Prior Approval

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In addition to limited use benefits, some items not listed on the DBL may be considered for coverage under special circumstances, with prior approval.

Prior Approvals (PA) may be obtained by contacting the Drug Exception Centre (DEC) directly. In these instances, the DEC will require details about the prescription, the prescriber, the client and the pharmacy. To complete the PA process, the DEC may also fax an Exception or Limited Use Drugs Request Form to the prescriber for completion stating the medical need for the drug.

A PA may also be obtained automatically for a select group of Limited Use drugs via the electronic claims adjudication system when a claim is submitted and meets the criteria. If rejected, the provider may resubmit the claim electronically to have the PA request reviewed by the DEC. Providers should be aware that a representative from the DEC may call them directly to discuss the request or to collect any necessary information.

PA requests or rejected claims submitted to the DEC may take a few days to review, depending on the time it takes for the prescriber to provide any needed information. When approval is granted, a confirmation letter with the applicable dates and prior approval details will be faxed or mailed to the provider. Pharmacy providers are advised to retain the confirmation letter, if applicable, for billing purposes.

Prior approval for specific benefits does not provide approval for a price change unless also specifically requested. NIHB sets maximum costing limits for specific items. Any prices that exceed the maximum price require specific and separate approval by NIHB.

PAs are entered electronically in the claims processing system. The date of dispense should be provided to the analyst so that it can be reflected in the PA. When submitting the claim, providers must be sure to include the date of service (dispense date).

2.6 Formulary for Chronic Renal Failure Patients

Clients with chronic renal failure are eligible to receive a list of supplemental benefits that are not included in the DBL but may be required on a long-term basis. Some supplemental benefits include: darbepoetin alfa products (except in provinces where NIHB clients are eligible to receive darbepoetin alfa through the provincial programs), calcium products, multivitamins formulated for renal patients and select nutritional supplements formulated for renal patients.

New clients requiring drugs on the special formulary will be identified for coverage through the usual prior approval process. Once the client is confirmed as eligible, coverage will automatically be extended to all drugs in the special formulary for as long as needed.

2.7 Palliative Care Formulary

Clients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and are near the end of life will be eligible to receive a list of supplemental benefits that are not included in the DBL.

When the DEC is informed that a client is palliative, a Palliative Care Application Form will be generated and faxed to the prescriber. Once completed and submitted, the client will be eligible for all medications on the Palliative Care Formulary if the following criteria are met:

  1. the client is not receiving care in a provincially covered hospital or long-term care facility; and
  2. has been diagnosed with a terminal illness or disease which is expected to be the primary cause of death within six months or less.

Once approved, the client will be eligible for all medications on the Palliative Care Formulary for six months without the need for further prior approval. If coverage is required beyond the initial six months, an additional six months may be granted upon receipt of a new “Palliative Care Application Form” request.

2.8 Formulary for Adjunct Medications Used During Active Cancer Treatment

The NIHB Program has established a formulary in order to streamline access to adjunctive (non-chemotherapy) medications frequently used by clients undergoing active cancer treatment. These clients will be eligible to receive a list of supplemental benefits that are not included in the DBL. Clients approved for oral chemotherapy drugs are automatically approved for access to all of the medications in this formulary. Additionally, clients approved for one of these medications for a cancer-related indication are automatically approved for access to all other medications in this formulary.

Clients are automatically enrolled for a period of six months. If cancer treatment is of a longer duration, access to the formulary will be granted to align with the treatment duration. In the event that treatment duration is not known and the treatment plan extends beyond six months, access to this formulary may be extended upon request.

Please refer to the Drug Benefit List for a full list of medications found on this formulary.

2.9 Exceptions

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Exception drugs are drug products which are not listed in the DBL. These drug products may be approved in special circumstances upon receipt of a completed “Exception Drugs Request Form” from the licensed prescriber:

  • when the prescription is for a recognized clinical indication and dose which is supported by published evidence or authoritative opinion; and
  • when there is significant evidence that the requested drug is superior to drugs already listed as program benefits; or
  • when a patient has experienced an adverse reaction with a best price alternative drug, and a higher cost alternative is requested by the prescriber; or
  • when there is supporting evidence that available alternatives are ineffective, toxic, or contraindicated (personal preference alone does not justify an exception).

2.10 Exclusions

Drugs are excluded from the NIHB Program as recommended by the Common Drug Review (CDR) and the NIHB Drugs and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (DTAC) because published evidence does not support the clinical value or cost of the drug relative to existing therapies, or there is insufficient clinical evidence to support coverage.

Exclusions are items not listed on the DBL and are not available through the exception or appeal processes. These include certain drug therapies for particular conditions which fall outside of the NIHB mandate and are not provided as benefits under the NIHB Program. They include, but are not limited to: anti-obesity drugs, household products, cosmetics, hair growth stimulants, and megavitamins. For a more complete list of exclusions, please refer to Appendix E in the DBL.

2.11 Drug Utilization Review

A drug utilization evaluation, which is part of the point-of-service or on-line adjudication system, provides an analysis of both previous claims data and current claims data to identify potential drug-related problems. Messages are returned to pharmacists to alert them of the potential problems. These messages are intended to enhance pharmacy practice with additional information. Currently, the system monitors for:

  • potential drug/drug interactions
  • duplicate drugs
  • duplicate therapy
  • early refill

As part of the NIHB Drug Use Evaluation (DUE) Program, DTAC reviews utilization patterns of medications billed to the NIHB Program and provides advice to promote effective, efficient and optimal drug therapy to First Nations and Inuit clients.

NIHB has a special warning message for the misuse of specific drugs of concern. These drugs include opioids, benzodiazepines and methadone. The warning message was designed to focus attention on cases where there were concerns about potential misuse, and where continued utilization was difficult to justify. The warning message, called the NE code, addresses situations where clients access:

  • 3 or more active prescriptions for benzodiazepines
  • 3 or more opioids
  • 3 or more benzodiazepines and 3 or more opioids
  • a prescription for methadone in association with an opioid-based drug

2.11.1 Intervention Codes

When pharmacy providers decide to override a reject message with an intervention code, they must complete and retain the appropriate documentation on the nature of the intervention directly on the prescription or on any hard or electronic version of the client file. To avoid the recovery of claim payment during the claims verification and audit process, proper documentation of any intervention is required. This should include:

  • date of the intervention;
  • summary of the intervention by the pharmacy provider;
  • documented communication with the prescriber, caregiver, and/or client; and,
  • reason for early refill (medication lost, destroyed, stolen, prescriber changed dosage, or client going out of town for a period greater than the 'days supply' remaining of the current refill).

2.11.2 Lost Medications

In the event a client loses their medication, a provider can use an intervention code to override a drug utilization review reject message for "fill too soon". The prescription or client profile at the pharmacy must contain specific documentation citing the reason why the prescription was refilled early.

Pharmacy providers can decide to override a reject message with an intervention code, “MR”. They must complete and retain the appropriate documentation on the nature of the intervention directly on the prescription or on any hard or electronic version of the client file. To avoid the recovery of claim payment during the claims verification and audit process, proper documentation of any intervention is required. This may include:

  • date of the intervention;
  • summary of the intervention by the pharmacy provider;
  • documented communication with the prescriber, caregiver, and/or patient; and
  • reason for early refill (e.g. medication lost).

2.12 Prescription Monitoring Program

The NIHB Program has implemented a Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) to address concerns over potential problematic use of prescription medications which include benzodiazepines, opioids, stimulants and gabapentin. The PMP is designed to identify and address potential client safety concerns regarding clients receiving high doses of these medications and/or prescriptions being obtained through multiple prescribers and/or multiple pharmacies.

When a client is entered into the PMP they are asked to choose a prescriber or a group practice to write prescriptions for benzodiazepines, opioids, stimulants and/or gabapentin. This prescriber may become the sole prescriber for one or for more of these four classes of drugs. Once a prescriber (or a group practice) has agreed to be the client's sole prescriber(s) for these medications, NIHB will cover the cost of those eligible prescriptions, which can be dispensed at any pharmacy.

When the Program covers medication for clients for the treatment of opioid use disorder (see section 3.5 Opioid Addictions Treatment), clients are placed in the PMP.

Once the client has been placed in the PMP, the next time the client attempts to fill a prescription for benzodiazepines, opioids, stimulants and/or gabapentin, the pharmacy will receive a rejection message and must call DEC.

After speaking to a DEC representative, the pharmacy receives by fax a copy of this Fact Sheet and the following two documents intended for the client:

  1. Letter to Client
    This letter will inform the client that in order for NIHB to continue paying for benzodiazepines, opioids, stimulants and/or gabapentin, they will have to choose only one prescriber (or a group practice) to prescribe these medications.
  2. Prescriber-Acceptance Form
    This form must be completed by the prescriber (or a group practice) of the client's choice who agrees to be their sole prescriber(s) of benzodiazepines, opioids, stimulants and gabapentin. The signed form must then be submitted to the NIHB Program.

The pharmacy will be paid a usual and customary (U&C) dispensing fee for providing the PMP package to the client when the client attempts to have a prescription filled for the first time after being placed in the PMP. The pharmacist will be issued a PA for the client by the DEC for a specific pseudo-DIN (91500001) with which they will be able to submit a claim for a single dispensing fee.

The dispensing fee will cover the cost of:

  • calling DEC and speaking to the NIHB representative;
  • accepting the faxed documents from NIHB; AND
  • giving the two documents plus one copy of the Fact Sheet to the client. If the client has difficulty understanding the documents, the pharmacist may explain the document contents and direct the client to call their respective regional office for additional information.

Please visit the NIHB Prescription Monitoring Program for more information.

2.13 Surveillance of Problematic Substance Use

The NIHB Program has introduced a wide range of client safety measures to prevent and respond to potential problematic use of prescription drugs to ensure that First Nations and Inuit clients can get the medications they need without being put at risk. These monitored drugs include: opioids, benzodiazepines, gabapentin and stimulants. The Program has introduced several strategies to monitor these medications which include: gradually reducing dose limits, the Prescription Monitoring Program (as described above), and reviewing the utilization of medications prescribed and dispensed for our clients.

3.0 Policies

The following policies affect the benefits under which the NIHB Program will reimburse pharmacy goods and services provided to eligible clients. As policies and procedures evolve, the Guide is updated accordingly. Pharmacy providers are advised of these changes through the Program's Newsletters. Newsletters can be found at the Express Scripts Canada provider website.

3.1 Best Price Alternative

The NIHB Program covers the lowest cost equivalent (LCE) drug, which is often a generic drug. Generic drugs are considered for inclusion on the NIHB formulary based on provincial interchangeability lists and other relevant factors.

The NIHB Program will reimburse only the best price (lowest cost) alternative product in a group of interchangeable drug products. Pharmacists must follow their provincial/territorial pharmacy legislation/policies to identify interchangeable products and to select the lowest-priced brand (NIHB may not necessarily reimburse at the cost listed in the provincial drug plan formulary).

3.1.1 Interchangeability

The NIHB policy to reimburse the best price alternative product also applies to generic products not deemed interchangeable by the province or generic products not listed on the provincial formulary. For these drugs, the NIHB Program will only reimburse up to the best price (lowest cost) generic product available in the provincial formulary. If the pharmacist chooses a generic that is covered by the NIHB Program, but is not listed on the provincial formulary or interchangeability list, the claim will be reimbursed to the maximum of the provincially listed LCE price and the higher costs will not be reimbursed.

Among interchangeable over-the-counter (OTC) products, the maximum allowable price will be that of the LCE listed on the DBL.

3.1.2 Maximum Allowable Cost for Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications

The NIHB Program has a maximum allowable cost (MAC) pricing model for select OTC medications. Pricing for medications will be determined through assessments of product accessibility and package sizing by province and territory which will ensure fairness to NIHB service providers while providing unit cost consistency. For example, all DINs for acetaminophen 500 mg are subject to the same MAC price. The OTC MAC pricing will be reviewed and updated regularly. Only oral tablets, capsules and caplets are included in the OTC MAC pricing model. The products that have a defined OTC MAC include: acetaminophen (Tylenol), acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin), loratadine (Claritin), cetirizine (Reactine), and ibuprofen (Advil).

3.1.3 Package Size

Costing must be based on appropriate package sizing for quantities dispensed in pharmacies. This means that costs submitted by pharmacy providers must correspond to the actual cost for the product incurred by the pharmacy provider and not to costs relative to a package size that is more expensive. All claim submissions will be calculated on the basis of the lowest unit cost.

3.2 "No Substitution" Claims

NIHB will consider reimbursement for a higher-cost interchangeable product when a patient has experienced an adverse reaction with a lower-cost alternative. In such circumstances, the prescriber must provide the NIHB Program with:

  1. a completed and signed Canada Vigilance Adverse Reaction Reporting Form: 'Report of suspected adverse reactions to health products in Canada'; and
  2. the prescription indicating “No Substitution” or “No Sub” (verbal authorization of 'no substitution' is not accepted by the NIHB Program).

Upon receipt, the pharmacist will forward a copy of the prescription to NIHB for review. The prescriber is responsible for sending a copy of the form to the Canada Vigilance Program. Forms can be obtained by calling the Canada Vigilance Program at 1-866-234-2345 or by downloading a copy from the Government of Canada's website or by photocopying a copy from the Compendium of Pharmaceuticals and Specialties.

NOTE: The Canada Vigilance Adverse Reaction Reporting Form will not need to be resubmitted for renewals or new prescriptions of the same drug for the patient, although a prescription indicating “No Sub” will still be required (verbal authorization of 'no substitution' is not accepted by the NIHB Program).

3.3 Prescription Quantities

The Program reimburses 100-days supply of chronic medications unless otherwise indicated by the prescriber. This ensures that certain medications required for long-term maintenance therapy are prescribed and dispensed efficiently.

The default maximum allowed dollar threshold for claims adjudication without a prior approval (PA) is $1999.99. Providers require a PA for claims that are over $1999.99. NIHB may set a lower maximum dollar threshold for specific items. Providers will be notified of these exceptions. Please contact the Express Script Canada Provider Claims Processing Call Centre for related questions.

3.3.1 Short-Term Dispensing

It is the Program's expectation that certain medications required for long-term maintenance therapy should be prescribed and dispensed in up to 100 days supplies. For medication refills requiring short-term dispensing (STD) for a shorter duration than 28 days due to compliance concerns, the Program will only reimburse a total of one dispensing fee per 28 days up to the regional maximum of the Program. These medications include the following:

  • Alpha-adrenoreceptor Antagonists
  • Anticoagulants
  • Anti-dementia Drugs
  • Antiemetics for cancer chemotherapy
  • Anti-gout Drugs
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-Parkinsonian Drugs
  • Anti-platelet
  • BPH Drugs
  • Cardiovascular Drugs
  • Drugs for Diabetes
  • Drugs for Treatment of Bone Diseases
  • Enzyme Preparations
  • GI Anti-inflammatory Drugs
  • H2-Receptor Antagonists
  • Immunosuppressants
  • NSAIDs
  • OTCs (including vitamins)
  • Other Drugs for Peptic Ulcer and Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Prokinetic agents
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Respiratory smooth muscle relaxants
  • Synthetic antidiuretic hormone
  • Thyroid Therapy
  • Urinary Anti-Spasmotics

The following are exceptions to the STD policy:

  • Refills for intermittent treatment of a chronic disorder or refills of a medication which are prescribed to be taken on an “as needed” (PRN) basisFootnote 1
  • Prescriptions for dose changes
  • Injectable and suppository dosage forms
  • Refills or new prescriptions when prescribed/dispensed in accordance with a court order
Compensation

The compensation will be the lesser of the usual and customary fee up to the maximum negotiated NIHB regional dispensing fee for each 28 days supplied. NIHB will continue to audit and recover in instances where quantity reduction occurs.

Less than 28 Day Supply

For the medications listed below in which short-term dispensing is deemed medically necessary, the Program will compensate up to one full dispensing fee every seven days, up to the regional maximum of the Program. If these medications are dispensed daily, the Program will compensate 1/7th of this fee:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antimanic agents
  • Antipsychotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Contraceptives
  • Estrogens
  • Needles & Syringes
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy
  • Progestins
  • Smoking cessation
  • Stimulants

Note: These lists may be amended as required and changes will be communicated through the quarterly online updates to the DBL. Medications on the short-term dispensing list are identified in the DBL using the symbol ST beside the medication strength and dosage form.

Implementation

When filling a new prescription for a chronic use drug, the Program will pay a full dispensing fee regardless of the number of days supply. A new prescription may include a dosage change or an intermittent treatment, based on an assessment by a prescriber.

When refilling a prescription for a chronic use drug that is for less than a 28 day supply or when a need for compliance packaging is identified by the prescriber, the Program will pay no more than one full dispensing fee per 28 day period. For the medications listed above, the Program will pay no more than one full dispensing fee per 7 day period.

A refill is defined as the second and all subsequent fills for a given strength and dosage of a drug.

3.3.2 Opioid, Benzodiazepine and Stimulant Dispensing

As part of its Problematic Substance Use Strategy, the NIHB Program has a 30-day maximum dispense policy for all opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants. The policy applies to all open benefit and limited use opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants covered under the Program, as well as to other opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants that are not listed, but are covered on a case-by-case basis.

One (1) full dispensing fee will be paid per 30-day dispense (or less, if prescribed in a smaller quantity). Where opioids or benzodiazepines are prescribed to be dispensed for a longer duration as a single prescription, NIHB will reimburse up to a maximum of 30 days at a time. For audit purposes, prescriber approval to split a prescription into 30-day dispenses will not be required for opioids, benzodiazepines and stimulants. Please be advised that the claims processor is unable to automatically cut back the day supply to 30 days. Providers are expected to manually apply the policy.

This policy does not apply to claims submitted according to the NIHB Opioid Addiction Treatment Policy (please refer to section 3.5 Opioid Addictions Treatment).

3.3.3 Maximum Quantities

Benefits that have a quantity and frequency limit do not require prior approval as long as the maximum quantity of the drug is not exceeded within a specified period of time.

Please refer to the DBL for drug specific quantity and frequency limits.

3.4 Extemporaneous Mixtures

3.4.1 General

NIHB considers reimbursements for extemporaneous mixtures when no suitable alternative is available commercially and when prescribed in accordance with NIHB's prescriber policy. Extemporaneous mixtures must not duplicate commercially available drug products (see back order exception below).

Where a corresponding pseudo-DIN for an extemporaneous mixture exists, that pseudo-DIN must be used to ensure correct reimbursement. Mixtures for which there is no pseudo-DIN but which meet open benefit requirements may be billed using the corresponding miscellaneous open benefit pseudo-DIN. Mixtures which are outside the open benefit requirements must be submitted to DEC for review. If the request is approved, the Limited Use miscellaneous pseudo-DIN will be authorized for the claim.

The following types of extemporaneous mixtures require prior approval:

  • Any extemporaneous mixture in the following extemporaneous mixture categories: internal powders, external powders, eye/ear drops, injections and suppositories, unless there is an open benefit pseudo-DIN assigned to that specific mixture;
  • Mixtures that contain exception or limited use ingredients and mixtures for which there are corresponding pseudo-DINs but the listing status is "limited use" or "exception";
  • Extemporaneous mixtures for external use which do not comply with the eligibility criteria outlined in Table 1 (below);
  • Drug classes being monitored under NIHB's Prescription Problematic Substance Use Strategy (e.g. stimulants, opioids, benzodiazepines, gabapentin) unless there is an open benefit pseudo-DIN assigned to that specific mixture;
  • Non-standard dosage forms including, but not limited to, lozenges, lollipops, gummies, troches and slow-release products require prior approval;
  • Mixtures containing any hormones (other than corticosteroids listed on DBL); and
  • Requests for payment for preparing sterile syringes where no alterations are required to the product prior to drawing up the syringe. Providers are reminded that clients should first access alternate health coverage when available (e.g. through provincial home care programs). Consideration will be given to the following when determining approvals: client/caregiver ability to draw up medication into a syringe, and requirements for specialized equipment (e.g. cytotoxic medications).

Mixtures that contain ingredients excluded from the Program are not eligible for coverage.

NIHB will reimburse according to the AAC of covered benefits.

NIHB does not reimburse for mixing time or the cost of supplies used in the preparation or dispensing of the mixture. The dispensing fee* reimbursed is in accordance with the type of product submitted as per the following:

Table 1: Reimbursement structure for extemporaneous mixtures
Category Eligible NIHB Dispensing Fee (DF)Footnote 2
External creams, ointments, lotions, powders Up to 1.5x DF
Internal liquids, powders Up to 1.75x DF
Sterile injections, eye/ear mixtures, suppositories Up to 2x DF
Back-order items and extemporaneous mixtures

Claims for an extemporaneous mixture that are replicating a commercially available open benefit product which is on back-order do not require prior approval when the product is an external cream, ointment or lotion or an internal liquid. The claim must be submitted using the corresponding pseudo-DIN where available. Otherwise the miscellaneous pseudo-DIN for the corresponding category may be used. Providers are required to maintain documentation demonstrating that the commercially available product and interchangeable products were on back-order at the time of dispense.

3.4.2 Extemporaneous mixtures - internal liquids

To be eligible under the NIHB Program without prior approval, extemporaneous mixtures for internal liquids must:

  • only contain active ingredients indicated for internal use which are open benefit(s) on the DBL; OR
  • have a corresponding pseudo-DIN which is listed as an open-benefit. They must not duplicate the formulation of commercially manufactured drug products.

Pharmaceutical powders of eligible ingredients may be used in lieu of tablets/capsules. These powders must be billed at AAC and must not exceed the maximum allowable AAC which is based on the price of the DIN of the comparable listed tablet or capsule.

3.4.3 Extemporaneous mixtures - external use

Mixtures for external use with corresponding open benefit pseudo-DINs may be billed to NIHB without prior approval. Mixtures without a corresponding pseudo-DIN may be eligible under the NIHB Program without prior approval (and billed under the applicable open benefit pseudo-DIN) if: the mixture is a combination of two or more open benefit external use products or the mixture is a combination of ingredients as outlined in Table 1. Note: the strength of hydrocortisone in finished products must be ≥0.5%

Figure 1: Eligible ingredient combinations for external mixtures

One or more eligible ingredients

  • Hydrocortisone powder (in strengths greater than 0.5%)
  • Salicylic acid powder
  • Miconazole powder
  • Ketoconazole powder
  • Nystatin powder
  • Clotrimazole powder
  • Sulfur powder
  • Bethamethasone powder
  • Anthralin
  • Lidocaine powder
  • Nifedipine powder
  • Metronidazole powder
  • Erythromycin powder
  • Clindamycin powder
  • Coal tar/LCD

AND one or more external use product listed as open benefit in DBL or one or more non-medicinal eligible base

  • Aquaphor
  • CeraVe cream/lotion
  • Cetaphil
  • Cliniderm
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Cold cream
  • Compound tincture of benzoin (Friar's balsam)
  • Dermabase
  • Dilusol
  • Eucerin
  • Glaxal Base
  • Ihle's paste
  • Lanolin
  • Lassar's paste
  • Lubriderm
  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum (Vaseline)
  • Urisec cream/lotion containing a maximum of 22% urea
  • Zinc oxide creams/ointments

+/-  One or more ingredients

  • Menthol (in strengths of 0.5% or greater)
  • Camphor (in strengths of 0.5% or greater)
  • Urea

One or more ingredients

  • Menthol (in strengths of 0.5% or greater)
  • Camphor (in strengths of 0.5% or greater)
  • Urea

AND one or more external use product listed as open benefit in DBL

List of ineligible ingredients and products:
  • Products which recreate commercial products that are available in the same strength unless there is a shortage/back-order of these products (see above).
  • Investigational products
  • Hair growth stimulants (e.g. minoxidil in topical preparations)
  • Fertility and impotence drugs (e.g. Caverject)
  • Homeopathic preparations
  • Natural Health Products unless an item is specified as a listed benefit
  • Products used for cosmetic purposes
  • Reconstitution of a dry powder oral preparation with distilled water in accordance with its product monograph
  • Reconstitution of non-sterile commercially available products such as BenzaClin
  • Pre-made parenteral infusion bags where no alterations are required to the product prior to administration
  • Reimbursement for supplies used in the process of compounding (e.g. alcohol wipes, syringes, needles and papers)
  • Reimbursement for supplies used to dispense final product (e.g. ointment jars, bottles, syringes, atomizers, nasal spray bottles and eye droppers)
  • Reimbursement for non-essential, non-medicinal ingredients (e.g. flavourings and sweeteners)

For more information, please contact the Provider Claims Processing Call Centre at 1-888-511-4666 to speak with an Express Scripts Canada Representative.

3.5 Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

3.5.1 Methadone

NIHB compensates compounded methadone (pseudo-DIN 00908835) or, where required by provincial regulations, commercially available methadone solution (e.g. Methadose) for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

The NIHB Program has specific requirements for drug cost, mark-up, and dispensing fees when billing methadone for the treatment of opioid use disorder. This applies to both witnessed and carried doses. The dispensing fee for methadone is based upon the following formula for each day of methadone treatment: (Dispensing Fee/7) + $5.10.

For claims filled on the same day, the electronic claims adjudication system will allow a single transaction up to a maximum seven-day supply or more than one transaction for a combination of up to a maximum seven-day supply. Pharmacy providers should be aware that NIHB will only pay claims from one provider per day and only if the total “days supply” has elapsed from a previous date of service. Claims are to be submitted reflecting the date of service provided.

When billing for compounded methadone solution for the treatment of opioid use disorder (pseudo-DIN 00908835), the quantity submitted must be in milligrams (mg) of drug dispensed prior to any dilution. For example, if a prescriber prescribed 75 mg of methadone each day, the claim submission must indicate a quantity of 75 mg of methadone.

When billing for Methadose for the treatment of opioid use disorder, the quantity submitted must be in millilitres (mL) of drug dispensed prior to any further dilution. For example, if a prescriber prescribed 75 mg of methadone each day, the claim submission must indicate a quantity of 7.5 mL of Methadose 10mg/mL oral solution.

3.5.2 Suboxone

The Program will reimburse providers their full usual and customary dispensing fee, up to the Program's regional maximum, per dispense.

3.5.3 Kadian

NIHB will consider covering Kadian for the treatment of opioid use disorder where methadone and Suboxone are not available or not appropriate. 

How Kadian is to be billed when used to treat opioid use disorder
Medication pseudo-DIN
Kadian 10mg 09991310
Kadian 20mg 09991311
Kadian 50mg 09991312
Kadian 100mg 09991313

The Program will reimburse providers their full usual and customary dispensing fee, up to the Program's regional maximum, per dispense.

3.6 Emergency Supply Process

The NIHB Program has a provision allowing providers to dispense medications requiring prior approval on an emergency basis.

When a medication requiring prior approval is needed by an NIHB client on an emergency basis and the criteria for automated Prior Approval (PA) have not been met (i.e. a claim is submitted on-line and a prior approval is not electronically granted as indicated by the generated CPhA message), a provider may dispense an initial course of treatment (maximum seven-day supply).

During regular business hours, the provider must call the Drug Exception Centre (DEC) to request prior approval for an emergency dispense.

If access to the DEC is not possible (i.e. on statutory holidays and after hours of operation), an emergency dispense may be provided without prior approval. In order to receive payment for the emergency dispense, the provider must contact DEC on the next business day for a back-dated approval. This approval number must be included when submitting the emergency supply claim.

Providers must follow the usual prior approval process to dispense the balance of the prescription. The provider will receive a new prior approval number and details of the approved benefit by fax. This new prior approval number must be included on the subsequent claim.

3.7 Refusal to Fill Fee

A pharmacy provider in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, or Manitoba may decide not to fill or refill a prescription when a claim has been rejected through the Drug Utilization Review (DUR) and it is deemed to be in the best interest of the client. In these cases, a fee equal to the provider's usual and customary fee may be charged to the NIHB Program. The provider is advised to re-submit the original claim and use the 'UL' intervention code (please refer to the Pharmacy Claims Processing Submission Kit for more information).

3.8 Trial Rx Program

In British Columbia and Saskatchewan, the NIHB Program may cover the dispensing fee associated with the provision of a small initial quantity of a 'trial drug' (seven-day supply) that is included under the Trial Prescription Program. To be applicable for reimbursement, the client must not have used the drug within the past two years. Please refer to the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit for details on adjudicating Trial Rx Program claims.

3.9 Manual Claims

Drugs of potential abuse require close monitoring by health care providers, such as prescribers and pharmacists, to maximize safety and effectiveness and minimize the risk of harm, abuse and diversion. In order for the Program to provide coverage for these medications appropriately, information about drug claims must be received in an accurate and timely manner. The adjudication system for the NIHB Program, Health Information and Claims Processing Services (HICPS) ensures this by adjudicating claims in real time. In order to ensure client safety and Program integrity, all claims for methadone, Suboxone, opioids, benzodiazepines or stimulants must be adjudicated at the point of sale. Provider manual claims and client reimbursement will not be permitted for these drugs.

3.10 Reversals for Prescribed Medication Not Picked Up by Client

When a client has not picked up a prescription within 30 days, the original paid claim must be reversed and resubmitted for payment of only the dispensing fee.

The submission of a claim for a dispensing fee where the client has not picked up a drug, which can be re-inserted to inventory, only applies to drugs with a dispensing fee dollar value. Once the original claim containing both the dispensing fee and the drug item cost has been reversed, the provider must submit a claim using pseudo-DIN 55555555 in the DIN No./Item Number field. The information on the new claim, with the exception of pseudo-DIN 55555555, must mirror that of the reversed claim. Items that are dispensed daily but not picked up should be reversed but are not eligible for the resubmission of payment for the dispensing fee.

Where the drug item is an eligible compound and reinsertion into the pharmacy's inventory is not possible, Express Scripts Canada pays the provider for both the drug and dispensing fee. Therefore, a reversal is not necessary. The DUR is not affected.

3.11 Balanced Billing

When submitting claims, providers are required to submit the usual and customary (U&C) dispensing fee to the NIHB Program according to their Pharmacy/Medical Supplies and Equipment Provider Agreement. In addition to this, providers are required to update the U&C fees in their system based on the agreed upon dispensing fees.

The maximum dispensing fees accepted by the Program are negotiated by the NIHB Program. Any U&C dispensing fees exceeding the allowable maximum are not to be charged to NIHB clients.

3.12 Prescriber Policy for Pharmacy Benefits

In order to be eligible for reimbursement, the following conditions must be satisfied by all prescribers:

  • licensed by and in good standing with the respective governing body or province in which they practice; and
  • the prescription has been written in accordance with federal and provincial legislation.

Specific to prescribers (except pharmacists):

  • the prescription falls within the health professional's scope of practice, as defined by the relevant provincial and territorial regulations; and
  • in addition, the NIHB Program accepts client-specific prescriptions for Schedule II, III and unscheduled (non-prescription) drugs that are not included on a health professional's prescribing list, when the item(s) falls within the prescriber's scope of practice.

Specific to pharmacist prescribers:

  • the prescription was written within the context of one of the scopes of practice detailed below, where allowed by the relevant provincial and territorial legislation:
    • prescribing in an emergency;
    • renewing/extending prescriptions (may include emergency refills);
    • changing drug dosage/formulation and/or making therapeutic substitutions;
    • prescribing under a collaborative practice agreement; and
    • prescribing a Schedule 1 drug within the pharmacist's scope of practice, as defined by the relevant provincial and territorial regulations, and which are benefits on NIHB's Drug Benefit List.

      OR
  • the treatment was initiated in accordance with the NIHB Pharmacist- Initiated Treatment Policy (see section 3.13).

3.13 Pharmacist-Initiated Treatment Policy

Claims for pharmacist initiated treatment the NIHB Program will accept (prior approval not required)
Condition Eligible Schedule 2, 3 and unscheduled treatments
Acne
  • Topical benzoyl peroxide products listed in AHFS class 84:04.92 of NIHB Drug Benefit List (DBL)
Allergic conjunctivitis
  • Ophthalmic products listed in AHFS class 48:10.32 and 52:92.00 of NIHB Drug Benefit List (DBL)
Allergic rhinitis
  • Antihistamine drugs listed in AHFS class 4:00.00 of NIHB DBL
  • Nasal corticosteroids listed in AHFS class 52:08.08 of NIHB DBL
  • Nasal solutions listed in AHFS class 48:10.32 of NIHB DBL
Bacterial conjunctivitis and otitis externa
  • Polymyxin B sulfate + gramicidin drops
  • Bacitracin zinc, polymyxin B sulfate ophthalmic ointment
Childhood nutrition may be initiated by a pharmacist in children age 11 and under.
  • Multivitamins listed in AHFS 88:28.00 of NIHB DBL
Constipation
  • Laxatives and cathartics listed in AHFS class 56:12:00
Diabetes mellitus
  • Diabetic devices listed in 94:01.00 of the NIHB DBL
  • Blood glucose test strips listed in 36:26.00 of the NIHB DBL
Note: Benefit Exception Questionnaires to request strips beyond the maximum allowable quantity must be signed by the client's prescriber or nurse practitioner.
Emergency contraception
  • Levonorgestrel 1.5mg tablets
Fever in children age 11 and under – up to one standard pack size of a pediatric formulation may be dispensed at a time
  • Ibuprofen oral liquid
  • Ibuprofen chewable tablets
  • Acetaminophen oral liquid
  • Acetaminophen chewable tablets
Fungal infections of the skin and mucosa, including vaginal candidiasis
  • Topical and vaginal anti-fungals listed in AHFS class 84:04.08 of NIHB DBL excluding ketoconazole shampoo
  • Fluconazole 150mg tablet/capsule as a single dose
Lice
  • Pediculicides listed in AHFS class 84:04.12 of the NIHB DBL
Prenatal vitamins and prenatal folic acid
  • Multivitamins (prenatal) listed in NIHB DBL
  • Folic acid 1mg tablets
Risk of opioid overdose
  • Naloxone 0.4mg/mL one mL injection and Naloxone 1mg/mL, one or two mL injection
  • Naloxone injection kits
  • Naloxone nasal spray
  • Naloxone nasal spray kits
Smoking Cessation
  • Nicotine replacement products listed in AHFS class 12:92.00 of NIHB DBL
Spacer Device – a client must have received a metered dose inhaler (MDI) in the past six months in order to be eligible
  • Spacer devices listed in AHFS 94:00.00 of the NIHB DBL.
Note: Coverage is granted for up to 2 spacer devices every 12 months.
Vitamin D supplementation – pharmacists may initiate treatment for clients of any age
  • Non-prescription vitamin D products listed in AHFS 88:16.00 of the NIHB DBL

The NIHB Program will reimburse claims for Schedule II, III and unscheduled drugs for the conditions listed in the table above, on the basis of either a valid pharmacist prescription as per jurisdictional legislation or a pharmacist's documented recommendation. The NIHB Program requires providers to maintain documentation related to claims submitted as a result of a pharmacist recommendation; at a minimum this must include the following information:

  • date
  • name, and address or date of birth of the patient
  • proper name, common name, or brand name of the prescribed drug, and the quantity thereof
  • dosage
  • amount prescribed or recommended
  • signature of the licensed pharmacist, including pharmacist's ID number

Claims submitted according to this policy will be reimbursed for the drug cost and dispensing fee according to NIHB reimbursement policies. All claims are subject to claims verification. The NIHB Program does not compensate pharmacists for client assessment services.

3.14 Health Canada’s Special Access Programme (SAP)

Quick Links

NIHB will consider, on a case-by-case basis, claims for drugs available through Health Canada’s Special Access Programme. Drugs considered for release by the SAP include pharmaceutical, biologic, and radio-pharmaceutical products not approved for sale in Canada. 

Providers should follow the usual process for prior approval of pharmacy benefits and contact DEC to submit requests. Requested costs will be validated by DEC using manufacturer receipts/invoices; adjustments may be needed based on the exchange rate.  Where the drug has been supplied to pharmacies at no cost, NIHB will consider requests for reimbursement of the dispensing fee alone. Where the SAP drug is compounded into an extemporaneous mixture, it will be billed using the SAP pseudo-DIN and the dispensing fee will be adjusted according to the extemporaneous mixture reimbursement policy.

Clients who have paid for medications received through the SAP may submit requests for reimbursement to NIHB using the Client Reimbursement Form; these requests will be reviewed by DEC for approval prior to reimbursement. Where client reimbursement process is followed, NIHB will consider reimbursing on the basis of the manufacturer receipt (at the current exchange rate) and documentation of dispensing of the medication by the physician, in lieu of an official pharmacy receipt, where applicable.

4.0 Payment and Reimbursement

4.1 Coordination of Benefits

Persons eligible for the NIHB Program are required to access other public or private health plans or provincial/territorial programs for which they are eligible before accessing NIHB. Pharmacy providers must confirm with each client whether other coverage exists because a claim must be submitted to the other party first for processing. Once this party processes the claim, the provider may then submit to NIHB for payment.

4.1.1 Coordination with Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) Program

Some NIHB clients living in Ontario may be eligible for drug coverage under the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) Program.

NIHB clients who are age 24 or under and also eligible for OHIP+ may access drug coverage from either NIHB or through the OHIP+ program. Claims cannot be coordinated.

NIHB will pay the copayments for ODB coordinated claims; however, once the maximum number of dispensing fees has been paid by ODB, NIHB will not pay additional dispensing fees for a coordinated claim. If an ODB recipient meets ODB’s established exemption criteria, then NIHB will continue to reimburse the copayment or deductible as applicable.  Any ODB-ineligible dispensing fee should not be charged to NIHB (i.e. when ODB pays for the drug cost but not the dispensing fee, NIHB should not be charged a fee).

Please see section 5.3.1 of the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit for detailed instructions.

4.1.2 Termination of Alternative Coverage

When an eligible client indicates that he or she no longer has benefit coverage through another private or public health care plan or social program, the provider or the client is asked to communicate this to the NIHB Program so that the client's file can be updated.

For additional information on Coordination of Benefits, please refer to the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit.

4.2 Dispensing and Claims Submission

Upon signing the Pharmacy Provider Agreement with the NIHB Program's claims processor, pharmacy providers are advised to read and retain an up-to-date Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit. The Kit outlines all of the accountability rules and obligations for providers to ensure that they have the information they need to submit claims for payment.

There are a few obligations that bear repeating in this Guide. Pharmacy providers, for example, have one year from the date of service to secure payment, and completion of the days supply field with the appropriate number of days of treatment is mandatory for all claims submitted electronically and on NIHB pharmacy claim forms. The following policies also carry important requirements for providers:

  • The provider should submit claims for payment for the acquisition cost of products on the Drug Benefit List which were provided, and the lesser of: (i) the Usual and Customary Professional Fee (dispensing fee) and (ii) any maximum for such fees as set out in any regional schedules for professional fees referred to in the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit.
  • When a client has not picked up a prescription within 30 days, the original paid claim must be reversed and resubmitted for payment of only the dispensing fee. This is applicable only to drugs with a dispensing fee dollar value.

5.0 Appendices

5.1 Glossary of Key Terms

AAC
Actual Acquisition Cost
CADTH
Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
CDEC
Canadian Drug Expert Committee
CDR
Common Drug Review
CPhA
Canadian Pharmacists-Association
DBL
Drug Benefit List
DEC
Drug Exception Centre
DTAC
Drugs and Therapeutics Advisory Committee
DUE
Drug Use Evaluation
DUR
Drug Utilization Review
FNIHB
First Nations and Inuit Health Branch at Indigenous Services Canada
HICPS
Health Information and Claims Processing Services
INAC
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
LCE
Lowest cost equivalent (best price alternative)
LU
Limited Use
MAC
Maximum allowable cost
NIHB
Non-Insured Health Benefits
NRT
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
NOC
Notice of Compliance
OAT
Opioid Addiction Therapy
ODB
Ontario Drug Benefit
OTC
Over-the-counter products
PA
Prior Approval
PMP
Prescription Monitoring Program
PRN
medication taken "as needed"
STD
Short-Term Dispensing
U&C
Usual and Customary Dispensing Fee

5.2 Client Eligibility

To be eligible for NIHB Program benefits, a person must be a Canadian citizen and have the following status:

  • a registered Indian, according to the Indian Act; or
  • an Inuk recognized by one of the following Inuit Land Claim organizations - Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Makivik Corporation. For an Inuk residing outside of their land claim settlement area, a letter of recognition from one of the Inuit land claim organizations and a birth certificate are required; or
  • an infant, less than 18 months of age, whose parent is an eligible client; and
  • currently registered or eligible for registration, under a provincial or territorial health insurance plan; and
  • not otherwise covered under a separate agreement with federal, provincial or territorial governments.

To facilitate verification, pharmacy providers should request the client's Status Card at each visit in order to provide the following client identification information in each claim:

  • surnameFootnote 3 (under which the client is registered);
  • given namesFootnote 3 (under which the client is registered);
  • date of birth (dd/mm/yyyy); and
  • client identification number.

It is recommended that pharmacy providers ask clients to present their identification card upon each visit to ensure that client information is entered correctly and to protect against mistaken identity.

For recognized Inuit clients, one of the following identifiers is required:

  • Government of the Northwest Territories health plan number, which begins with the letter "T" and is followed by 7 digits. This number is valid in any region of Canada and is cross-referenced to the First Nations and Inuit Health Regional Office client identification number.
  • Government of Nunavut health plan number, which is a 9-digit number starting with a "1" and ending with a "5". This number is valid in any region of Canada and is cross-referenced to the FNIH client identification number.
  • FNIHB Client Identification Number (N-Number), which begins with the letter "N" and is followed by 8 digits. This is a client identification number issued by the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch at Indigenous Services Canada to recognized Inuit clients.

For eligible First Nations clients, one of the following identifiers is required:

  1. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) registration number, which is a 10-digit number. Treaty or Status number, this registration number is the preferred method of identifying First Nations clients.
  2. FNIHB Client Identification Number (B-Number), which begins with the letter "B" and is followed by 8 digits.

For infants under one year of age who are not yet registered with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada or applicable Inuit associations, pharmacy providers must submit the first claim for manual processing to Express Scripts Canada using the NIHB Pharmacy Claim Form. Subsequent claims may be submitted for this infant via point of service with the parent's primary identifier in the client identification number field and the infant's identifiers in the surname, given name, and birth date fields.

More detailed information about client eligibility is included in section 4.1 of the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit.

5.3 Privacy Statement

Indigenous Services Canada's NIHB Program has a responsibility to protect personal information under its control in accordance with the Privacy Act and its related Treasury Board privacy policy and directives and is responsible for ensuring the personal information collected is limited to that which is necessary to administer the Program.

For more information, please contact ISC’s ATIP Coordinator. You also have the right to file a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada if you think your personal information has been handled improperly.

5.4 Appeal Process

Quick Links

Persons eligible for the NIHB Program have the right to appeal the denial of a benefit with the exception of items that are identified as exclusions or insured services. If a client seeks information about the appeal process, pharmacy providers may direct them to the online appeal procedures, or to the appropriate FNIHB regional office.

5.5 Audit Program

The NIHB provider audit program ensures that the NIHB Program is accountable for the expenditure of public funds. The Health Information and Claims Processing Services (HICPS) contractor performs this audit function by verifying paid claims against pharmacy records to confirm that the claims have been billed in compliance with the terms and conditions of the NIHB Program. Claims are verified according to NIHB Program policies as well as Terms and Conditions which include valid prescriptions. This validity is determined by federal and provincial / territorial acts and regulations as well as policies and standards of practice of the provincial / territorial College of Pharmacists or equivalent regulatory body.

Detailed information about audit procedures and the responsibilities of pharmacy providers for these audits are included in section 5.0 of the Pharmacy Claims Submission Kit.

6.0 Frequently Asked Questions

6.1 Short-Term Dispensing Questions and Answers for Providers

Q1. What is the NIHB Short-Term Dispensing (STD) policy?

The NIHB STD policy establishes compensation criteria for dispenses of certain chronic use medications where short-term dispensing is medically necessary. The STD policy consists of two reimbursement models, depending upon the type of  medication being dispensed.

Q2. What is the purpose of the NIHB STD policy?

This STD policy is not intended to interfere with or question treatment approaches or judgements made by pharmacists or prescribers on how patients receive their medications. Rather, it sets out guidelines on how NIHB will compensate pharmacists for dispensing certain medications. Certain medications required for long-term maintenance therapy should be prescribed and dispensed in up to 100 days supplies. For refills for medications requiring a shorter term dispensing less than 28 days due to compliance concerns, the Short-Term Dispensing (STD) Policy applies.

Q3.  How many NIHB STD dispensing policies are there?

NIHB has one STD policy depending on the type of two reimbursement models.

  1. The 7 day STD reimbursement model: maximum of one full dispensing fee every 7 days.
  2. The 28 day STD reimbursement model: maximum of one full dispensing fee every 28 days.

Q4. What is the list of medications under the 7 day STD reimbursement model?

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antimanic agents
  • Antipsychotics
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Contraceptives
  • Estrogens
  • Needles & Syringes
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy
  • Progestins
  • Smoking cessation
  • Stimulants

Q5. What is the list of medications under the 28 day STD reimbursement model?

  • Alpha-adrenoreceptor Antagonists
  • Anticoagulants
  • Anti-dementia Drugs
  • Antiemetics for cancer chemotherapy
  • Anti-gout Drugs
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-platelet
  • Anti-Parkinsonian Drugs
  • BPH Drugs
  • Cardiovascular Drugs
  • Drugs for Diabetes
  • Drugs for Treatment of Bone Diseases
  • Enzyme Preparations
  • GI Anti-inflammatory Drugs
  • H2-Receptor Antagonists
  • Immunosuppressants
  • NSAIDs
  • OTCs (including vitamins)
  • Other Drugs for Peptic Ulcer and Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
  • Prokinetic agents
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors
  • Respiratory smooth muscle relaxants
  • Synthetic antidiuretic hormone
  • Thyroid Therapy
  • Urinary Anti-Spasmotics

Q6. What are the exceptions to the two STD reimbursement models?

The STD policy does not apply to medications under these circumstances:

  1. Refills for intermittent treatment of a chronic disorder or refills of a medication which are prescribed to be taken on an "as needed" (PRN) basis. Note: Medications prescribed to be taken on an "as needed" (PRN) basis and dispensed chronically may be subject to audit and recovery.
  2. Prescriptions for dose changes.
  3. The following dosage forms: injectable and suppository.
  4. Refills or new prescriptions when prescribed/dispensed in accordance with a court order.

Q7. If the prescriber writes a prescription for 'daily dispense', is this sufficient documentation to allow for a full dispensing fee?

No. A prescription with the direction of 'dispense daily' or 'daily dispense' is not a  sufficient rationale for the Program to reimburse differently than as described in the NIHB STD policy. The dispensing frequency is at the discretion of the prescriber and pharmacist. However, compensation under the NIHB Program is based on Program policies.

Q8. What happens if the pharmacy dispenses the classes of medications listed above more frequently than once every 7 or 28 days depending of the medication class?

The dispensing fee should be submitted according to the following formula: 

[(Usual and Customary (U&C) Dispensing fee (up to NIHB maximum) /7 or 28 days) x days supply]. The dispensing frequency is at the discretion of the prescriber and pharmacist; however compensation to the pharmacist under the NIHB Program is based on Program policies.

Q9. Does the policy change affect the benefit status of medications?

No. Benefit status of medications is independent of the STD policy.

Q10. How can claims that have already been sent be adjusted?

Providers have up to 30 days from the date of service to reverse and resend claims submitted incorrectly. The provider can reverse the original claim and resubmit.

Q11. If the pharmacy is billing every day, can the pharmacy bill the full dispensing fee on the first of the seven (7) days (with an override code) and bill the remaining six (6) days without a dispensing fee?

No. The provider should calculate the adjusted fee as above and submit daily. It is the NIHB Program's policy that claims are submitted appropriately on the date of service and not in advance. Claims submitted otherwise are subject to audit and recovery.

Q12. Does the STD policy replace NIHB's 100-day supply policy?

No. With the implementation of the changes to the STD policy, it is the Program's expectation that most chronic use medications will continue to be prescribed in 100-day supplies and dispensed in 100-day intervals.

Q13. What is a "full dispensing fee"?

A "full dispensing fee" is the pharmacist's usual and customary dispensing fee, up to the regional maximum of the Program.

Q14. What if it is a medication that the client has already received, but the client is new to the pharmacy?

The claim would be considered a "new prescription", since the pharmacist has not seen the client before. It is understood that additional work may be required by the pharmacist when a client is seen for the first time.

Q15. How does STD policy affect other medications on the Drug Benefit List (DBL)?

There is no effect on other medications included in the DBL. Other medications, with the exception of extemporaneous mixtures, not under the STD policy are covered as  per the day supply on the prescription and claims include a full dispensing fee.

Q16. Will the list of drugs that are subject to the STD policy change over time?

Yes, the list of medications can be expected to change over time. Any changes will be communicated via updates to the NIHB Drug Benefit List as well as in the quarterly NIHB Provider Newsletters.

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