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Pharmacy rewards ban struck down in court

A ban on getting loyalty reward points on prescription drug purchases has been struck down in court after a challenge by Canada Safeway and Thrifty Foods.  - Black Press file photo
A ban on getting loyalty reward points on prescription drug purchases has been struck down in court after a challenge by Canada Safeway and Thrifty Foods.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

A ban on issuing loyalty reward points and other incentives on prescription drug purchases has been struck down in B.C. Supreme Court.

It's a victory for major grocery store chains that filed the court challenge as well as point-collecting shoppers and a defeat for the College of Pharmacists of B.C., which imposed the ban.

The college had argued loyalty points are a powerful lure that can alter some shoppers' buying habits and potentially harm their health.

It suggested some patients may go without their medicine until they can fill a prescription on a day when a loyalty point bonus is offered.

College officials also argued insured patients who don't pay out of pocket might keep refilling a prescription after they no longer need it just to collect more points and the unneeded drugs may be abused or diverted to the illegal drug trade.

But Justice Christopher Hinkson ruling found the college's bylaws blocking all incentives were "unreasonable" and too broad.

"Their net effect is harmful to the public interest in obtaining pharmacy services and prescriptions at the lowest price," his ruling says.

Hinkson said the claims of pharmacy college board directors defied common sense.

"The concern that customers will overspend on their drug and device needs in order to collect the rewards offered is illogical," he found. "The cost of the drugs or devices to customers will invariably exceed the value of the rewards offered."

The judge noted the ruling doesn't stop the college from drafting a new bylaw to more reasonably address its concerns.

The College of Pharmacists of B.C. said it has made no decisions on what steps it might take next.

The court challenge was filed by companies that operate Canada Safeway and Thrifty Foods.

The ban also lost in the court of public opinion – the college received 14,000 emails mostly opposing the ban.

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