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Pharmacy uses kickbacks and threat of eviction to keep methadone clients

A CBC News investigation into pharmacies that paid kickbacks to drug addicts discovered one outlet with a troubled past used a different tactic to get and keep methadone users coming to the pharmacy.

Gastown Pharmacy in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has required certain customers to fill their methadone prescriptions exclusively with them, or lose their homes.

The pharmacy had changed its name to Peoples Pharmacy for a short period of time when it became a member of Peoples Drug Mart, a chain of drug stores across B.C. and in part of Alberta. It reverted its name to Gastown Pharmacy on June 1.

George Wolsey, a pharmacist at Gastown Pharmacy, also runs the nearby Wonder Hotel. Wolsey made it a condition in his agreement with the tenants that they must be on B.C.'s taxpayer-funded methadone program and must get all the prescriptions filled at Gastown Pharmacy.

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Comment (1)

john sanford wrote: Posted: 2009/10/31 at 8:15 PM

Pivot Legal Society

Vancouver, October 30, 2009 – The B.C. College of Pharmacists and the B.C. Attorney General have taken legal positions with Pivot Legal Society against infamous pharmacist and hotel owner George Wolsey, who earlier this year evicted two tenants who refused to buy methadone from him.

Wolsey, who also owns the Palace and Wonder Rooms hotels, from requiring all his tenants to buy methadone from him at his hotel. This practice allowed Wolsey to make more than $6000 per year in dispensing fees for each methadone patient at his hotel.

In May 2009, Wolsey evicted two of his tenants on 24 hours notice because they opted to use another pharmacy to fill their prescriptions. When the tenants challenged those evictions at the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB), the RTB stated that the Residential Tenancy Act did not protect them because Wolsey was providing “therapeutic treatment or services” in the form of methadone. The RTB made this ruling despite evidence that no treatment, services or supports of any kind were made available to tenants.

In September, Pivot applied to the B.C. Supreme Court for judicial review of the RTB decisions. Last week the B.C. Attorney General, which represents the RTB, said in a filed response to Pivot’s application that it supports Pivot’s position and agrees that the Residential Tenancy Act should apply to the Wolsey hotels.

In addition, the College of Pharmacists of B.C., in response to concerns raised by Pivot over Wolsey’s practices, announced that it has amended its bylaws to prevent pharmacists from limiting patients’ choice of pharmacy. The new bylaws make the types of contracts used by Mr. Wolsey illegal. The College also informed Pivot that it has sent letters to Mr. Wolsey advising him of the changes and noting numerous complaints against him for these practices.