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Rx rewards nixed by Alberta court

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EDMONTON, Alberta — An Alberta court has rebuffed Sobeys Inc.’s efforts to quash an Alberta College of Pharmacists (ACP) ban on loyalty rewards for prescription drug purchases.

The Alberta Court of Appeal overturned a decision against the proposed ban last year. In that ruling, the court found no evidence of actual or potential harm to customers from pharmacy rewards or other incentives, concluding that the ACP resolution overreached. But with the latest decision, Alberta pharmacies now cannot offer rewards to prescription customers.

“We are obviously very disappointed with this decision,” stated Jedd Wood, vice president and general manager of Sobeys National Pharmacy Group. “In addition to the professional services and trusted advice provided by Safeway, Sobeys and IGA pharmacists, we believe that we contribute to better patient care by offering rewards that help increase loyalty, adherence and ultimately improved health ­outcomes.”

Sobeys, which has more than 400 retail pharmacy locations, including Lawtons Drug stores, had initially applied for judicial review of the ACP’s rewards ban in 2014.

The ACP said it enacted the prescription rewards ban due to concerns about its potential impact on care decisions. “Why we’ve been so passionate about this issue is that the sorts of inducements offered by community pharmacies started to change,” explained Alberta College of Pharmacists registrar Greg Eberhart. “They began to involve bonuses, or more rewards points on specific days, or benefits if a patient changed pharmacists, all of which had potential to disrupt professional relationships and affect decisions important to care.”

Sobeys already had been unsuccessful in trying to allow rewards for prescription purchases in British Columbia. Last year, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected Sobeys’ appeal to strike down College of Pharmacists of British Columbia bylaws that had prohibited patients from earning rewards on nongovernment-funded ­prescriptions.


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