British Columbia

Downtown Eastside pharmacy ends controversial methadone program

A pharmacy in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside that used eviction threats to keep its clients has voluntarily ended its methadone program.

A pharmacy in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside has voluntarily ended its controversial participation in a provincial methadone program.

A CBC News investigation last September reported Gastown Pharmacy used kickbacks and threats of eviction to keep its methadone clients. The B.C. Health Ministry started an investigation into the pharmacy shortly afterward.

Health Minister George Abbott said in a statement Wednesday that Gastown Pharmacy has cancelled its agreement with the Health Ministry.

"The Gastown Pharmacy voluntarily cancelled their Pharmacy participation agreement and methadone addendum, effective Jan. 22," Abbott said.

"As such, we have no cause to continue with our plans for a termination of agreement hearing," he said.

One of the store's pharmacists, who also runs the nearby Wonder Hotel, made it a condition in his agreement with hotel tenants that they must be on B.C.'s taxpayer-funded methadone program and must get all their prescriptions filled at Gastown Pharmacy.

The B.C. government pays pharmacists $16.30 for every daily dose of methadone they dispense. That translates into $6,000 a year in dispensing fees if a pharmacy can get a single addict to fill all of their prescriptions at its outlet.