Sobeys prescribing legal battle over planned Alberta pharmacy rewards point ban

A plan by the regulator of Alberta pharmacists to ban stores from giving consumers reward points for purchases is turning into a prescription for a court battle.

EDMONTON — A plan by the regulator of Alberta pharmacists to ban stores from giving consumers reward points for purchases is turning into a prescription for a court battle.

Sobeys Inc. says it plans to file a legal challenge against the Alberta College of Pharmacists on behalf of Sobeys and Safeway.

Earlier this month the college announced it would ban the issuing of such reward points for pharmacy purchases starting May 1.

The council says it made the decision because pharmacists and technicians are health professionals, not simply vendors of drugs.

Sobeys says it strongly disagrees with the college’s decision about the awarding of Air Miles and Club Sobeys points.

Sandra Aylward, vice-president of Sobeys, says millions of Albertans collect such points and a recent survey suggests most consumers would consider such a ban unfair.

“Studies show that loyalty programs build stronger bonds between patients and their pharmacies and encourage better patient adherence to prescription medication,” she said Monday in a release.

Nova Scotia-based Sobeys is owned by Empire Company Limited (TSX:EMP.A).

The company says it owns or franchises more than 1,500 stores in all of the provinces under banners including Sobeys, Safeway, IGA and others.

The college says the best benefit that patients can receive is high quality care

“We must make sure pharmacists and pharmacy technicians can work in an environment where the critical decisions they must make can be made objectively — without any real or perceived impediment,” reads a statement posted on the college’s website about the policy decision reached April 10.

Sobeys said it is urging consumers to complain to the Alberta government about the ban.

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