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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hosmer Fire Department sends thank you to anonymous gift donor

A handmade wooden plaque was left in front of the Hosmer firehall on May 28

Castle Project seeking public input

The comment period surrounding the expansion closes on June 23

City seeks public input on new cannabis retail license

The application must first gather approval from city council before being approved by the province

City of Fernie responds to high water levels

The city is monitoring water levels daily in order to keep residents safe

Ready, Set, Learn bus excites incoming students

EIDES’s Ready, Set, Learn bus delivered early learning packages throughout Fernie

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Greater Victoria drive-thru window smashed after man receives burger without mustard

Greater Victoria Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Most Read