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

Alternative approval process to proceed for Centennial Field purchase

Fate of loan to purchase land for future park in hands of South Shuswap residents

Valdy gives volunteers a hand after Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival

Celebrated Canadian singer pitched in alongside starstruck clean-up crew

Robbery tactic used on Salmon Arm senior not uncommon

RCMP advice comes after credit cards stolen at Walmart parking lot

Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival exceeds expectations

Artists, attendees and organizers praise effort behind successful event

Founder of Salmon Arm’s sister city exchange helps welcome Inashiki visitors

Twenty three Japanese guests visit city for a week, Salmon Arm to return in March

VIDEO: Could we BE any more excited? ‘Friends’ fans go crazy for merch

Movie theatres will show select episodes to mark the NBC series’ 25th anniversary

Penticton man sentenced in non-fatal 2017 shooting

Elkena Michael Knauff sentenced to seven and a half months in jail

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Kamloops RCMP locate and arrest man who fled from police

The 22-year-old male was wanted in relation to a domestic violence investigation

North Shuswap Lions, Celista winery host benefit concert

Sept. 7 event at Celista Estate Winery to support North Shuswap Youth Program

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

COLUMN: Much to enjoy at Ryga Arts Festival

As I learn about George Ryga and his contributions, it is clear why this festival carries his name

Shuswap history in pictures

Shuswap history in pictures: mechanics class

Most Read