In Sobeys West Inc v. Alberta College of
Pharmacists, 2016 ABQB 232, the Alberta Court of
Queen's Bench held that amendments to the College of
Pharmacists' Codes of Ethics and Standards of Practice
prohibiting inducements to customers for the purchase of drugs and
other products and services went beyond the College's authority
under the Health Professions Act
In April, 2014, the College amended its Code of Ethics,
Standards of Practice for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians, and
Standards for the Operation of Licensed Pharmacies to prohibit
pharmacists or pharmacy technicians from offering inducements to
customers. The amendment prohibited the use of customer loyalty
schemes, gifts, prizes, rewards and other incentives aimed at
inducing a customer to purchase drugs and other products and
services from a particular pharmacist or at a particular time. The
amendment had been stayed by the Court on an interim basis in June,
2014, prior to the amendment coming into force, until the Court
issued this most recent decision.
The Court held that the prohibition on inducements was beyond
the authority of the College because the prohibition was
inconsistent with the scope and mandate of the HPA. As stated by
the Court, "the HPA does not contemplate that the
College's authority or jurisdiction in regulating the practice
of the pharmacy profession would extend to the regulation of
economic relations or competition among commercial or business
The Court held that the HPA was intended as a framework to
ensure that all health professionals would be competent and
accountable to the public. The HPA was not intended to empower
Colleges to regulate economic matters. Since the inducement
prohibitions, as determined by the Court, amounted to controlling
the way commercial entities (pharmacies) operated and competed in
terms of prices and costs to consumers, they had a clear and direct
economic function and were not related to the practice of the
profession or issues of professional conduct and competency of
pharmacists. Accordingly, they were held to be inconsistent with
the objectives of the HPA and unrelated to the statutory purpose of
The Court also went on to consider, if the prohibition on
inducements was related to the purpose and objectives of the HPA,
whether the prohibition was a reasonable policy choice. The Court
held that even if the prohibition on inducements was related to the
purpose and objectives of the HPA, there was insufficient evidence
to demonstrate that the prohibition on inducements protected and
served the public interest and was therefore a reasonable policy
This decision of the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench is in
contrast to the very similar case of Sobeys West Inc. v.
College of Pharmacists of British Columbia, 2016 BCCA
a case previously discussed by Field Law. The BC Court of
Appeal determined it was reasonable for the BC College of
Pharmacists to prohibit pharmacists from using "customer
incentive programs" even without any empirical evidence of
harm. The Alberta Court does not discuss the BC Court of
This decision from the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench
appears to place some limits on the College's powers under the
HPA. Regulators wishing to discuss the impacts of this case on any
current or proposed standards of practice, ethical principles or
other regulatory requirements are welcome to contact any member of
Field Law's Professional Regulatory Group. We
understand that the College of Pharmacists has appealed the
decision. Field Law will continue to monitor the proceedings and
will report on future guidance provided by the Alberta Court of
Appeal on these issues.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Effective September 1, 2016, the Disposition of Surplus Real Property Regulation to the Ontario Education Act was amended with the intention to reduce barriers to the formation of health and community hubs in Ontario.
Health Canada is proposing to change the way that it regulates non-prescription drugs, natural health products and cosmetics in Canada, which will now be referred to collectively as "self-care products."
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).