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.

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.

Surrey North Delta Leader

Just Posted

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
Surrey RCMP looking for missing boy, age 13

Steven Vail was last seen at 8 a.m. after arriving at Frank Hurt Secondary but did not show up for his 8:30 a.m. class.

A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. A number of schools in the Fraser Health region, including Woodward Hill, have reported cases of the B.1.7.7 COVID-19 variant first detected in the U.K. (File photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
COVID-19 cases at Surrey school district drop ‘dramatically’

There were 19 notifications sent out in the first 9 days of June, compared to in all of 245 in May

teaser photo only.
Surrey ‘POP!’ series promises ‘Performances Outdoors in Parks’ this summer

Ticketed concerts, theatre shows and other events start July 9

A sign warning of a pack of coyotes hangs near 2660 Croydon Dr. (Aaron Hinks photo)
South Surrey woman sounds alarm after encounter with pack of coyotes

Susan Martin said three full-grown coyotes were lurking around her home

Surrey council chambers. (File photo)
Surrey council endorses ‘public engagement’ strategy

Council approves ‘Public Engagement Strategy and Toolkit,’ and a ‘Big Vision, Bold Moves’ transportation public engagement plan

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

A 34-year-old man was arrested Monday after Transit Police found him riding a SkyTrain with a shotgun in the front of his sweatpants. (Transit Police)
SkyTrain passenger arrested, charged for concealing shotgun in his sweatpants

Codty-James Gray, 34, was found with ammunition, brass knuckles and knives

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-week-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Most Read