Pharmacy shoppers can no longer collect loyalty points on prescription drug purchases after a ban imposed by the College of Pharmacists of B.C.

Loyalty point ban hits B.C. pharmacies

Prohibition on drug 'kickbacks' faces court challenge

B.C. pharmacies are now banned from handing out loyalty reward points to customers for prescription drug purchases.

The measure – effective Dec. 2 – is already drawing outrage from shoppers and has sparked a legal challenge from Canada Safeway and Thrifty Foods, both arms of the Sobeys group that offer popular loyalty card points.

The College of Pharmacists of B.C. first proposed a ban in 2012 but shelved it amid strong public opposition.

However, the college’s board re-examined the issue after the provincial election and unanimously approved the ban Sept. 20, arguing loyalty points are a powerful lure that can alter some shoppers’ buying habits and potentially harm their health.

The bylaw prohibits various gifts, rebates, refunds and other incentives, not just loyalty points.

The college says such incentives are inappropriate “kickbacks” to customers.

“After careful consideration, the College still firmly believes that paying patients for prescriptions is unprofessional, unethical and unsafe,” it states on its website.

The college argues some patients may go without their medicine until they can fill a prescription on a loyalty point bonus day.

It also believes patients with third-party insurance who don’t pay out of pocket may keep refilling a prescription after they no longer need it just to collect more points.

The college calls that a drain on limited health care dollars and says drugs not used by the intended patient may be abused by others or diverted to the illegal drug trade.

It says paying customers a kickback undermines pharmacists’ integrity and the credibility of the profession.

“Patients do not expect to receive payments for other health services they receive, and drug therapy should not be the exception to that rule.”

The college hopes a points ban will result in patients choosing a pharmacy or pharmacist on their own merits, not inducements.

Some patients on Canada Safeway’s Facebook page said they may switch to closer pharmacies as a result of the ban on issuing Air Miles points for prescriptions at Safeway.

Victoria senior Randy McEwen said he doubts anyone would delay filling prescriptions for the sake of a bonus.

“Most Canadians are smart enough to make rational decisions,” said McEwen, who uses prescription points to fly his children in from Edmonton. “This ban discriminates against the elderly and the chronically ill. Why would you let me collect points on gas or banking but not on prescription drugs?”

Canada Safeway and Thrifty Foods are slated to be in court next week seeking an injunction.

They argue the incentives ban mainly targets larger chains and unfairly props up smaller independent pharmacies.

“There is no evidence that incentives pose a risk to patient care or safety, or that they undermine the ethical conduct of pharmacists,” said the Sobeys petition in B.C. Supreme Court.

Exempted from the ban are free or discounted parking or delivery services, and payment by credit or debit cards that generate loyalty benefits.

Similar reforms have been enacted in Ontario and Quebec. B.C. has banned point awards on Pharmacare-covered prescriptions since 2011.

Just Posted

Port Alberni gets colourful

First-ever 5k Colour Run drew a crowd

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Alberni wrestler heads to University of the Fraser Valley to compete

Ravi Manhas is one of 10 recruits signed to the Cascades for 2018-19

Taxing Vancouver Island

Big Read: find out which communities are paying the lowest and highest taxes on Vancouver Island

VIDEO: Canadian toddler caught practising hockey skills in crib

Eli Graveline is getting praise from far and wide as the internet freaks out of cute throwback video

Rainbow crosswalk in B.C. defaced 10 days after installation

Surrey’s first rainbow crosswalk has been defaced sometime over the weekend

Closing arguments expected in trial for twice convicted Canadian killer

Crown, defence expected to give closing arguments in Millard murder trial

Pigs crash yoga class in B.C.

First it was goats, now it’s pigs — you can get downward dog with the whole farm in Aldergrove

Canadians undertake the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping mission

A dozen Canadian peacekeepers arrive in Mali as yearlong mission begins

U.S. justices won’t hear case of anti-gay marriage florist

The case is regarding whether business owners can refuse on religious grounds to comply with anti-discrimination laws

Kangaroo stops play during Australian soccer match

The women’s game stopped play for more than 30 minutes on Monday due to the kangaroo

Man shot dead in Surrey ID’d as hockey coach and father of two

Murder of Paul Bennett – a respected Peace Arch Hospital worker and ‘champion of sport’ – ‘not random’

Serial killer Robert Pickton transferred to Quebec: victim’s family

Pickton was convicted in December 2007 of six counts of second degree murder

Most Read