Loyalty reward points can no longer be offered in B.C. on prescription drugs after a court ruling in favour of the College of Pharmacists of B.C.

Court okays ban on pharmacy reward points

Prescriptions blocked from B.C. supermarket loyalty programs

Major supermarket chains have lost a court battle to continue offering their pharmacy customers loyalty reward points on prescription drugs in B.C.

A B.C. Court of Appeal ruling Wednesday upholds the power of the College of Pharmacists of B.C. to enforce its two-year-old ban on incentive programs like Air Miles and other loyalty rewards.

The decision, which overturned a B.C. Supreme Court ruling last year that initially struck down the ban, says inducements from pharmacists are “a matter of public interest and professional standards” for the college, which can prohibit incentives without clear proof of harm to customers.

The pharmacists’ regulatory body, which imposed the ban in late 2013, had argued loyalty points are a powerful lure for consumers that can alter their medication buying habits and potentially harm their health.

“The College considers the provision of incentives like redeemable points to be unethical, unsafe and unprofessional,” registrar Bob Nakagawa said.

“Pharmacists are medication experts, and sometimes the right thing for them to do is not dispense a drug. A patient’s motivation to collect redeemable points may inappropriately encourage drug use and can put their health at risk.”

One of the objections raised by the college was that insured patients who don’t pay out of pocket might continue to refill a prescription after they no longer need it just to collect more points and the unneeded drugs may be abused or diverted to the illegal drug trade.

The case included anecdotal evidence that the top priority of some customers was to find out how many points they’d get filling a prescription rather than information on proper use or health effects.

There were also allegations of pharmacists retroactively dispensing medication to patients who had already missed past days but were eager to get the points “thus generating further revenue for the pharmacist for drugs the patient does not need.”

The ruling is a defeat for Sobey’s and Jace Holdings, the companies that operate Safeway and Thrifty Foods stores. Shoppers Drug Mart Inc. was also an intervenor in the case.

A Sobeys representative said the company is disappointed with the court’s decision and considering its options.

Incentives have long been forbidden on methadone prescriptions as well as any Pharmacare-covered prescriptions.

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

Just Posted

COVID-19 adds worry and unexpected costs to Castlegar woman’s cancer fight

Community fundraiser raises $9,000 for Jennifer Rodrigues’ family

School District 20 to improve childcare services for those working in emergency services

The district has launched a survey to aid in the consultation process

6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes the Kootenays

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout parts of B.C. and Alberta

Castlegar and Trail Chevron offering free gas for front line workers

Health care, fire, police, paramedics included in offer

Stay inside vehicles on Interior ferry crossings to prevent spread of COVID-19: B.C. government

Glade, Kootenay and Arrow Lakes some of the ferry crossings in Interior

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for another six weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

B.C.’s intersection speed cameras putting more tickets in the mail

One Nanaimo location delayed after speed limit reduced

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

High cost, limited coverage for asthma medicine a concern during COVID-19 pandemic

B.C. man says he skips puffs to save money, but others have it worse

B.C. man sick with COVID-19 calls it a ‘horrible disease’

Tim Green says he has ‘extreme coughing fits every hour’ to clear his lungs

Trudeau says Parliament needs to sit to pass expanded COVID-19 benefits

Wage subsidy program has been greatly expanded since it was first approved

UPDATE: Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Most Read