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

What Castlegar read in 2019

It was a busy year at the Castlegar Library as 84,792 patrons came through the doors.

Join Take a Hike for a night of fun at the Salmo Ski Hill

West Kootenay Take a Hike is based in the Kootenay Columbia Learning Centre

First 3D metal printer in rural Canada arrives at MIDAS Lab in Trail

MIDAS provides access to state-of-the-art equipment for fabrication and rapid prototyping

Meet the candidates for the SD 20 byelection

Voters in RDCK Area I and part of Area J including will go to the polls on Jan. 25.

Latest winter storm prompts West Kootenay travel warning

20-30 cm of snow expected overnight and into Thursday

Fashion Fridays: Look your best this year

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Airliner crash a mistake that pleased Iran’s enemies: Supreme Leader Khamenei

Iran’s supreme leader says dowining of Flight 752 was a bitter accident in rare sermon

Sub-zero B.C. weather freezes clothing in just 45 minutes

A local photographer decided to have some fun with the frosty weather before its gone

Special prosecutor to review Cranbrook toddler drowning case

Evidence disclosure at issue in the case of a woman sentenced for criminal negligence causing death

UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses B.C.’s appeal in Trans Mountain pipeline case

Judges decide whether B.C.’s power to protect environment can include impeding a federal project

10 B.C. cities break temperature records in winter storm

Quesnel dipped to -41.9 C, breaking a record from 1916

Vancouver Island child struck, pinned under SUV while sledding

Boy suffers serious injuries, no charges laid in incident

Unprepared for chemistry test, B.C. student begs superintendent to call another snow day

The student from West Vancouver promised he would study more, but was distracted by skiing and hot chocolate

Most Read