Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Pharmacy Compass?

The Pharmacy Compass is an online tool developed by Pacific Blue Cross that may help you save money by comparing the average price for prescription drugs at different pharmacy locations across British Columbia based on claims submitted to Pacific Blue Cross over the past three months.

It’s a fact; one in 10 Canadians struggles to pay for medications even if they have insurance. And one in six BC residents does not adhere to their prescriptions because of cost.*

*Law et al. The effect of cost on adherence to prescription medications in Canada. CMAJ 2012;184(3):297-302 2012

2. Why should I use the Pharmacy Compass?

The Pharmacy Compass may help you find ways to lower your costs. This may be important if your health plan doesn’t fully cover prescription drug costs or dispensing fees.

Remember, price is only one aspect when selecting a pharmacy of your choice. Before changing pharmacies, you should consider your relationship with the pharmacist, an important health care provider, the valued added services provided by your pharmacy and the convenience of the pharmacy’s location and business hours.

3. How can I find my past prescription drug claims?

If you are a plan member with coverage from Pacific Blue Cross, you can find past prescription drug claims in CARESnet® at pac.bluecross.ca .

4. What is a DIN?

A Drug Identification Number (DIN) is an eight digit number assigned to a drug product by Health Canada once it has been authorized for sale. It uniquely identifies all drug products sold in Canada and can be seen on the prescription label and pharmacy receipts. The DIN uniquely identifies product name, active ingredient, strength, dosage form, manufacturer, and route of administration. For example, penicillin has 55 different DINs because of the multiple drug products available on the Canadian market.

5. What kinds of drugs does the Pharmacy Compass compare?

The Pharmacy Compass compares the average cost per pill of brand name and generic equivalent prescription medications that are sold as pills. It does not compare prices of drugs that are non-prescription or not in pill form.

6. Why do several products with the same medication name show up when searching by drug name and does it matter which one I use?

In Canada, there are several generic manufacturers that produce the same drug once the brand drug loses its patent. Pharmacies will usually stock only one or two products from generic manufacturers at a time for any one drug. They also usually carry the original brand product. As long as each drug product has the same chemical name, dose, and dosage form, they are considered interchangeable so it does not matter which one you select. Regardless of which generic brand you select, our tool will also display prices for all alternative generic brands.

7. How are drug prices calculated?

The drug prices shown are an average calculated based on prescription claims submitted by pharmacies to Pacific Blue Cross over the past three months. Prices shown are for each pill. You should multiply the price shown by the number of pills to determine the approximate price of your prescription.

We use an aggregate of all claims submitted to calculate an average. We do not use any of the personally identifiable information of plan members from the claims we receive.

Remember, the Pharmacy Compass is for information purposes only; price and availability change all the time. We show an average price based on the past three months from our claim database. The actual price may vary from what is shown here. Also, in some cases, prices may include costs and services other than drug or dispensing fees such as specialized packaging, drug compounding services, etc.

We suggest you speak to your pharmacist before making your purchase.

Your pharmacist can answer a variety of questions about your prescription including the best way to take it, what to expect, any side effects and how your prescription can help you get the best health outcomes.

8. How often is the Pharmacy Compass updated?

The Pharmacy Compass is updated monthly.

It is important to remember, the Pharmacy Compass is for information purposes only; price and availability change all the time. We show an average price based on the past three months from our claim database. The actual price may vary from what is shown here.

We suggest you speak to your pharmacist before making your purchase.

Your pharmacist can answer a variety of questions about your prescription including the best way to take it, what to expect, any side effects and how your prescription can help you get the best health outcomes.

9. Why can't I find information for pharmacies located outside British Columbia?

The Pharmacy Compass currently only contains information from pharmacies within British Columbia that have submitted claims to Pacific Blue Cross within the prior three months.

10. I entered my pharmacy/drug but it’s not showing in the search results?

If your pharmacy or drug is not showing in the search results, it could mean that Pacific Blue Cross has not received any claims for the drug that you are looking for from that pharmacy in the last three months. In other words, none of our members have purchased this particular drug from that pharmacy in the past three months or it could mean that your drug is not in pill or capsule form.

11. Why is the Pharmacy Compass drug price not the same as what I actually paid at the pharmacy?

The drug price shown is an average based on claims submitted to Pacific Blue Cross. Price and availability change all the time. We show an average price based on the past three months from our claim database.

Remember, the Pharmacy Compass is for information purposes only; price and availability change all the time. We show an average price based on the past three months from our claim database. The actual price may vary from what is shown here. For example displayed prices may be offset by higher costs for special packaging such as compliance devices that may have been part our data used to calculate the average cost.

We suggest you speak to your pharmacist before making your purchase.

Your pharmacist can answer a variety of questions about your prescription including the best way to take it, what to expect, any side effects and how your prescription can help you get the best health outcomes.

12. The Pharmacy Compass shows lower prices at other pharmacies than I pay now. What is the next step?

A good next step for cost savings is to contact the pharmacy to check the current drug price. Pharmacy Compass has the store contact details.

Price is only one aspect when selecting a pharmacy of your choice. Before changing pharmacies, you should consider your relationship with the pharmacist, an important health care provider, the valued added services provided by your pharmacy and the convenience of the pharmacy’s location and business hours.

13. Do I have a choice of the drug I take?

Your doctor prescribes drugs that in their professional opinion will be the most effective for you. There may be different options for your drug at different prices depending on things like your own health condition; your age; any possible interactions with other medication you may be taking; any potential allergies or side effects; and the best method for you to take the drug (i.e., pill, liquid, patch, cream, capsule). Your pharmacist will work together with you and your doctor to ensure the most appropriate option for you.

14. What is a generic equivalent?

A generic equivalent is a non-brand-name version of a drug. A generic equivalent is chemically equivalent to the brand-name version of a drug, but is manufactured by a different pharmaceutical company. Generic equivalents are commonly referred to as the “generic version” of a brand-name drug. There can be many companies that make generic versions offered at different prices and not all pharmacies may deal with the same suppliers. Also, from time-to-time, if appropriate, your doctor may work with your pharmacist to change your generic version to another option.