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.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Charity Langley car show starts tradition of caring for people with cancer

Ken Johnson wanted an event that to feature his late friend’s vehicle, and it grew into a car show.

Self-guided Langley mural walk first of many new tourism experiences

Brochures are available for visitors and residents who want to check out some Langley City wall art.

UPDATED: Langley’s downtown business entity given 10-year extension

Langley City’s businesses can strategize future after new BIA bylaw was approved, president says.

VIDEO: Geocaching attracted adventure seekers to new Langley City event

Dozens of teams came out to discover a mix of art and nature during a new treasure hunt.

LETTER: Hat obnoxious, manager not bigoted

One Langley Advance letter writer takes exception to another’s comments about an MAGA hat incident.

REPLAY: B.C.’s best video this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Tens of thousands give heroes’ welcome to Croatia team

Euphoria gave way to a mixture of disappointment and pride for Croatia fans after their national team lost to France in its first ever World Cup final.

Former NHL goalie Ray Emery drowns in Lake Ontario

Police say the 35-year-old’s death appears to be a ‘case of misadventure’

Air quality statement warns of smoky air for Kamloops area

Environment ministry says area on north side of Thompson River may be affected by wildfire smoke

Pussy Riot claims on-field protest at World Cup final

Russian protest group claimed responsibility after four people ran onto field in police uniforms

Fans party on Montreal streets after French World Cup win

To city is home to nearly 57,000 French nationals

SilverStar officially opens Gondola

The brand-new gondola is now offering scenic rides for visitors on SilverStar Mountain Resort.

VIDEO: Man climbs crane in Abbotsford

Police, fire called to deal with climber last night

B.C. VIEWS: Making private health care illegal again

Adrian Dix battles to maintain Cuba-style medical monopoly

Most Read