Prescription Points

As of today, we won’t get a small rebate on prescription drug costs in New Brunswick. The NB College of Pharmacists, in their wisdom, decided it was “unethical” to give loyalty card points for prescription expenditures. NB joins BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, PEI and NL in this policy.

“I’m very pleased that the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists is ensuring that patients will no longer be potentially influenced by incentives and rewards in choosing their pharmacy.” – Adele Wallace, President of the New Brunswick College of Pharmacists

It doesn’t matter, I suppose, if you have a drug plan. But if you don’t, and you’re paying the whole shot yourself, that little bit of ‘cash’ back was nice. It took the cost down a bit.

It’s so people are not being steered toward one particular pharmacy, they say. So that you go for the best health-care provider rather than the one who accepts your loyalty card. Cards like Air Miles, PC Optimum and specific pharmacy cards. I think most people go to whichever pharmacy they like. Probably where their prescription lists are kept, where they feel they get good health care, and where they buy other stuff. The bonus – and that’s all it is – is points which you can use to buy that other stuff.

Cui Bono?

I knew in Ontario that you didn’t get points on prescriptions. I blamed the loyalty card companies. Why give you rewards to buy something you’ve got to buy in that store anyway? Prescription drugs aren’t something you can shop around for. So who benefits? The card programmes, I thought. Saving on pay outs to a captive market.

But I had it backwards. Pharmacist associations say the rewards mean that you might buy your prescription drugs with points in mind instead of the quality of care offered. In other words, you can’t be trusted to manage both your health needs and a rewards card. It also makes me wonder about the quality of pharmacists, and oversight of them, if their association is worried about you getting an incompetent one.

But, assuming licensed pharmacists know what they’re doing, giving reward points for prescriptions just means that you get points for those dollars spent. Now you’ll still be going to that same pharmacy, and not getting any money back on prescriptions. Their cost is usually high, and there’s no national pharmacare plan.

So in the interests of appearing neutral, pharmacists are taking away the only prescription subsidy there was. Right at a time of higher prices for everything. Who really benefits from this?

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