Recently, the Alberta College of Pharmacists has moved to prevent patients from collecting reward points from pharmacies.
In the past, patients have been able to collect reward points for everyday prescriptions at lucrative rates – Safeway has offered 7x the base Air Miles for prescriptions filled at Safeway pharmacies.
The change is set to take place in June 2014, but many other provinces have already removed the reward programs from pharmacies.
The concept of earning reward points for having prescriptions filled at pharmacies is a widely-publicized topic, with many people letting their local politicians know how they feel.
Arguments against Reward Points
The College of Pharmacists believes that giving customers reward points for filling prescriptions simply gives them more incentive to get more prescriptions filled – necessary or not. They believe sometimes the customer would get a prescription filled just to earn more reward points instead of considering whether they actually need the prescription.
In the long run they believe this leads to drugs being prescribed too often just so that patients can collect more points. They say drugs that aren’t needed can lead to long term negative effects on a patient’s health.
I can somewhat see their point, but I don’t personally get a prescription filled for the sole purpose of collecting rewards. Sure, it’s great to earn 7x more Air Miles when a prescription gets filled at a Safeway pharmacy – but that isn’t my main reason for getting it in the first place.
Arguments for Reward Points
Sobey’s – which has recently acquired Safeway, argues the opposite – that pharmacies that give patients reward points actually benefit patients in the long run.
They say the reward programs help bring patients in to fill much-needed prescriptions and can help patients adhere to their medication schedules. They believe giving Air Miles with prescriptions increases the number of fills which means patients are taking the medications they should. The patients also build stronger bonds with their pharmacists and are more likely to have prescriptions filled in the long run.
Sobey’s also argues that there is an ‘anti-competitve dynamic’ behind the decision – it only benefits pharmacies who cannot or choose not to offer reward points.
Reward Points are ‘Nice to Have’
Personally, I think the reward points are a ‘nice to have’ – they are a small bonus when my prescriptions get filled but they don’t make me more likely to have my prescriptions filled. I don’t take many medications, but when I do get prescriptions filled it is for one main purpose – to get better. Earning reward points has no effect on how likely I am to get the prescription filled.
If one pharmacy offers reward points and one does not, I’m much more likely to choose the one with the reward points – but it isn’t the main factor in getting a prescription filled.
I also have no loyalty to one particular pharmacy, so earning reward points doesn’t lead to a stronger bond with a pharmacist. Besides, I’ve recently stopped using Air Miles as my main rewards program in favor of cash back because it is more lucrative.
The ‘Coalition for Consumer Choice’ has launched a petition calling for the rewards to be reinstated. Many consumers feel the removal of the rewards is simply a money issue and has nothing to do with the long-term health of patients, as claimed by the College of Pharmacists.
The ‘I Earned It’ petition, calls for the rewards programs to be reinstated at pharmacies in Alberta and so far over 25,000 people have signed it.
What do you think? Should reward points be given to patients by pharmacies?