Please don’t insult our intelligence

Recently the Alberta College of Pharmacists (ACP) amended the Code of Ethics and Standards and banned inducements in pharmacies.  As a result pharmacists (and pharmacies) will no longer be able to offer or provide inducements of any kind (including loyalty points) to patients in return for receiving prescriptions or pharmacy clinical services.

Remember that provincial regulatory bodies, like colleges of pharmacy, are obligated by law to always act in the interest of the public; hence the following rationale was provided behind the decision of the ACP:

“Banning inducements helps ensure that pharmacists and technicians can objectively make critical decisions without any real or perceived impediment”

In response Sobeys Inc says it plans to file a legal challenge against the ACP on behalf of Sobeys and Safeway, another chain Sobeys recently acquired.  Sobeys now owns or franchises 1500 pharmacies across Canada.

A senior Sobeys executive recently provided this rationale for Sobeys’ action:

“We must make sure pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can work in an environment where the critical decisions they must make can be made objectively.”

Huh? How can two entities sit on opposite sides of an issue and then rationalize their opposite positions on the same basis of reason?

Both the ACP and Sobeys claim their position is in the interest of the public/patients.  Clearly one must be right and one must be wrong.  Surely the two positions must be mutually exclusive.

Here comes the part that not only stretches the imagination, it insults the average person’s intelligence.

Sandra Aylward, vice president of Sobeys, claims millions of Albertans (according to a survey which Sobeys conducted) would consider such a ban unfair.  She goes on to state that:

“Studies show that loyalty programs build stronger bonds between patients and their pharmacies and encourage better patient adherence to prescription medication”

What studies?  Who commissioned these studies?   Who paid for the studies?  Was a study done on a blind control group?  Where can someone get a copy of the studies?  Where were the studies published?  Which scientific journals?

Notice Ms Aylward states that loyalty points build stronger bonds between patients and PHARMACIES (not pharmacists)…in other words those pharmacies that offer loyalty points, being exclusively chains like Sobeys, or Shoppers Drug Mart itself having recently been taken over by Loblaw.

My issue with this whole thing is not loyalty points and whether they should be allowed or not.  There are so many other inducements already rampant in the retail pharmacy jungle like Senior Days, preferred provider networks,  professional fees discounting,  etc that I am not sure one more nail will make much difference, though I do remain against the notion of inducements.

M y issue is that someone would stretch the edges of credulity and offer an argument in defense of their position that insults my intelligence.

Are we really to believe that Sobeys wants to issue loyalty points for prescriptions to increase medication adherence?

So this has nothing to do with marketing?  Nothing to do with trying to increase store traffic and build bigger baskets of goods sold?  Nothing to do with competing with Shoppers Drug Mart Optima Loyalty Points Program?

So one is to believe this is all in the interest of greater patient care?

Please let me know the name of the person who believes this claim by Sobeys; I have some land in Florida I would like to sell him/her.


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