Many pharmacy customers go to Safeway or Shopper's Drug Mart to collect points through loyalty programs. But the college of pharmacists wants to ban the offerings as inducements that could harm patients.

Pharmacy loyalty program ban riles point collectors

Dec. 28 deadline for comments on change proposed by College of Pharmacists of B.C.

Pharmacies in B.C. may soon be banned from giving out loyalty points to customers if a proposed reform is approved.

The College of Pharmacists of British Columbia wants to block pharmacies such as Shopper’s Drug Mart and Canada Safeway from awarding points to their loyalty card holders out of concern the bonuses spur some patients to make poor decisions.

The regulatory body argues loyalty points are a powerful lure for some customers, who may wait longer than they should to fill a prescription in order to get a bigger points bonus offered at a later date.

“These delays could negatively impact on that patient’s health and cause serious short- and long-term effects,” according to the college.

“Pharmacists have seen examples of patients making choices based on the inducement, contrary to what is best for their health.”

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

The college calls it a drain on limited health care dollars and says drugs that are never used by the intended patient may be abused by others or diverted to the illegal drug trade.

Privacy is also an issue – the pharmacists’ body argues data on a customer’s pharmacy spending frequency shouldn’t be used by company loyalty programs to build marketing profiles, even though data on actual medical conditions and drug purchases are kept confidential.

Once the temptation of points is eliminated, the college says, patients may be more likely to choose a pharmacy and pharmacist based on their own merits, not their ability to issue inducements.

Air Miles and Shopper’s Optimum point collectors have been campaigning against the proposal, saying loyalty programs provide a small bonus on the thousands of dollars some patients with chronic diseases pay for medication each year.

“We spend our money to pay for our prescriptions, therefore why can we not earn rewards for it?” Safeway shopper Jaime Kichok asked on Facebook. “What makes a prescription purchase any different than any other purchase? It’s really because the small independent pharmacies can’t compete. Why is that our problem and why are we being penalized for it?”

Air Miles Canada calls the proposal “unfair to customers” and anti-competitive, while Safeway says it sees no evidence Air Miles collecting harms patients.

People have until Dec. 28 to comment on the proposed ban on the college of pharmacists website (www.bcpharmacists.org) before the college’s board decides whether to push ahead.

B.C.’s health minister Margaret MacDiarmid will have the final say on whether the ban is imposed.

The proposed reform mirrors similar steps taken in Ontario and Quebec and it’s also under consideration in Alberta.

B.C. already banned pharmacies from offering points or other inducements on the portion of prescriptions covered by PharmaCare since mid-2011.

Just Posted

Family, friends of Mission murder victim hold protest rally

Group wants convicted murderer Walter Ramsay sent back to a maximum security facility

City cracking down on builder bait-and-switch

Abbotsford upping deposit required from builders of single-family houses

Vancouver Giants earn a weekend sweep against Everett

Langley-based hockey team plays its next game is at home on Friday, Sept. 28, against Seattle.

Krista Cardinal announces bid for Abbotsford school board

Cardinal points to Fraser Health experience listening to and assisting with patient, doctor needs

Abbotsford company among 500 fastest growing in Canada

Valley Carriers keeps spot on Growth 500 list, but drops from 398 last year to 408 this year

Environment Canada confirms Ottawa area hit by two tornadoes Friday

At one point more than 200,000 hydro customers were blacked out

Porsche impounded for going 138 km/hr in 90 zone during charity rally

West Vancouver Police said wet roads and heavy rain made it extra dangerous

B.C. students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Maple Ridge elementary school teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

Phase 2 of $1.35B Royal Columbian upgrades won’t be a public-private partnership

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says it will be a design-build

Trump drains oxygen from Trudeau foreign policy with PM, Freeland bound for UN

A lot has changed since the Liberals came to power in Canada in 2015

B.C. man fined $15,000, barred from trading securities for fraud

Larry Keith Davis used money from an investor to pay personal bills

Emergency crews investigate small sulphuric acid spill in Kootenays

IRM states a small volume of less than one cup and three dime-sized drips were leaked from carrier

Man facing charges after allegedly climbing into police car, spraying fire extinguisher

Vancouver police say the man appeared to be under the influence of drugs

Most Read