Sobeys to challenge to ban on pharmacy reward points

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EDMONTON, Alberta — Sobeys Inc. plans to sue the Alberta College of Pharmacists (ACP) over an impending resolution that would prohibit pharmacy patients from collecting loyalty reward points on pharmacy purchases.

The Canadian food and drug retailer said Monday that it aims to file a legal challenge on behalf of its Safeway and Sobeys pharmacies to nullify the ban, which is slated to go into effect May 1.

"We strongly disagree with the college’s decision," Sandra Aylward, vice president of professional and regulatory affairs at Sobeys, said in a statement. "Studies show that loyalty programs build stronger bonds between patients and their pharmacies and encourage better patient adherence to prescription medication, which is in the best interests of patient health care."

Under amendments to the ACP Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians, and Standards for the Operation of Licensed Pharmacies approved by the ACP council on April 10, "A regulated member must not offer or provide or be party to the offering or provision of an inducement to a patient where the inducement is offered or provided on the condition that the patient obtains a drug product or a professional service
from the regulated member or licensed pharmacy."

The amendments defined "inducement" as a reward, gift (including cash), prize, coupon, points or other elements in incentive or loyalty programs that can be redeemed for rewards, gifts, cash, prizes, or other goods and services.

"Albertans who collect reward points, including Air Miles and Club Sobeys, on pharmacy purchases will be shocked to learn that the Alberta College of Pharmacists has adopted a resolution that will prohibit patients from collecting reward points on pharmacy purchases starting May 1, 2014," Sobeys stated Monday.

"Millions of Albertans earn loyalty rewards and choose to use them to enrich their lives, buy products and travel," the company added. "According to a survey conducted in 2012 by Research Now, 73% of Albertans believe a ban such as this to be unfair."

Sobeys said it’s urging pharmacy patients to contact their provincial lawmakers to express their concerns over the ban.

Sobeys has about 450 pharmacy locations, including nearly 200 Safeway supermarket pharmacies and 78 Lawtons Drugs stores. Overall, the company operates more than 1,500 stores in all 10 provinces under such banners as Sobeys, Safeway, IGA, Foodland, FreshCo, Thrifty Foods, and Lawtons.



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