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

PHOTOS: Chilliwack Terry Fox Run in the rain

Wet weather didn’t dampen spirits or enthusiasm for the annual cancer fundraiser

Chilliwack’s Belle Voci brings three-day a cappella festival to Fraser Valley

Singers will learn from two of Lower Mainland’s best music leaders at Belle Voci A Cappella Festival

Man charged with stealing Chief Dan George sculpture from Abbotsford school

Piece turned up in Mission pawn shop after Chilliwack artist noticed it missing this summer

New real-time location technology coming soon to Fraser Valley buses

Waiting riders will be able to see location of their bus using their phones

Seven Days in Chilliwack

A list of community events happening in Chilliwack from Sept. 16 to 22

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

Canucks sign Brock Boeser to three-year, US$17.6-million deal

Young sniper will be in Vancouver Tuesday

B.C. forest industry looks to a high-technology future

Restructuring similar to Europe 15 years ago, executive says

RCMP conclude investigation into 2017 Elephant Hill wildfire

Files have been turned over to BC Prosecution Service

B.C. wants to be part of global resolution in opioid company bankruptcy claim

Government says settlement must include Canadian claims for devastation created by overdose crisis

Guilty plea in Lower Mainland break-and-enter spree

Gordon Vincent Gladstone, 42, was charged with 12 counts relating to a dozen incidents in late 2018

Vancouver police officer hit with bear spray mid-arrest

Officer had been trying to arrest a woman wanted province-wide

B.C. ends ‘birth alerts’ in child welfare cases

‘Social service workers will no longer share information about expectant parents without consent’

U.S. student, killed in Bamfield bus crash, remembered as ‘kind, intelligent, talented’

John Geerdes, 18, was one of two UVic students killed in the crash on Friday night

Most Read