Alberta Court of Appeal reinstates ban on pharmacies offering reward programs
Ban prevents pharmacies from offering loyalty programs, reward points, other incentives
The Alberta College of Pharmacists is within its mandate to ban pharmacies from offering inducements in exchange for providing prescribed drugs, Schedule 2 drugs or professional services, the Alberta Court of Appeal has ruled.
The appeal court overturned a Court of Queen's Bench ruling from April 2016 that prevented the college from enforcing the ban, first introduced in 2014.
The ban prevents pharmacies from offering loyalty programs, reward points, or other incentives to customers who purchase drugs or services, the college said in a news release Friday.
"There were all kinds of rewards that were issued on the condition — condition — that you purchase a prescription or that you use a professional service," college registrar Greg Eberhart said in an interview Friday.
He said the inducements included giving customers bonuses or more rewards points on specific days, or benefits for changing pharmacists.
The college's decision to ban the perks is meant to create a more objective environment.
"A decision by a pharmacist might include not providing a drug, that might be the best decision," he said. "This is about the health of individuals, it's about relationships."
Eberhart said the best relationships between pharmacists and clients are built over time, based on good practices and personal experiences.
"In Alberta, pharmacists have what is among the broadest scopes of practice anywhere in the world," Eberhart said.
"They have the ability to assess and adapt prescriptions, prescribe medications, create care plans, and administer vaccines by injection.
"All pharmacists have the responsibility to be in the moment and be objective when exercising critical thinking with every decision they make about the health of those they serve."
The college has a responsibility to ensure its members help the public use drugs properly, he said.
The court of appeal decision supports the college's amendments to its standards of practice, Eberhart said. Those standards are consistent with ones in other jurisdictions and professions, such as medicine.
The ban on inducements will take effect immediately.
Schedule 2 drugs are those available for sale only at pharmacies and only provided after consultation with a pharmacist.