Ruling that bans incentives for pharmacy prescriptions reaches Saanich

Saanich residents are now a month into the provincial ban on using points-based cards or other incentives when purchasing for prescriptions.

Saanich residents are now a month into the provincial ban on using points-based cards or other incentives when purchasing for prescriptions.

The College of Pharmacists of B.C. won its appeal in their incentives case on Jan. 26, meaning inducements such as loyalty points, cash, gifts or redeemable points.

It was, stated the College, a matter of public safety.

Points based incentives were used by some independent and most chain pharmacies, as B.C. was one of the few provinces that allowed points on prescriptions.

College Registrar Bob Nakagawa applauded the decision stating that the “provision of incentives like redeemable points to be unethical, unsafe and unprofessional.

“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.”

JC Pharmacy pharmacist Chandra Erant is pleased with the outcome – he witnessed both sides of the argument as the former manager of the short-lived Target pharmacy at Tillicum Centre. But as as the proprietor of an independent pharmacy, he said the reason for the court injunction in 2014 was that the large pharmacy chains said the decision by the college was a business one. The large chains did not feel the college should make business decisions, thus the short return to providing incentives until the college’s last appeal.

“Right now everything boils down to service,” said Erant. “People should choose their pharmacy completely based on service not on points. It comes down to public safety.”

Originally, the bylaw was put into place in December of 2013 to prohibit the incentives for prescriptions or pharmacy services. That bylaw was fought by pharmacy chains who sought a court injunction to prevent its enforcement. The injunction was denied in 2014 and a full hearing before the B.C. Supreme Court took place in May 2014. The court ruled in favour of the pharmacy chains and the College of Pharmacists then launched an appeal. This gain went to the B.C. Court of Appeal and the court ruled in favour of the College of Pharmacists.