Practice Insight explores concerns reported to the College as part of the complaints and reports process that present learning opportunities for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. This close up on a complaint reminds registrants of their duty in determining the appropriateness of advertising based on legislative requirements and professional responsibilities.
Pharmacy Offers Free Breakfast for New Patients
As part of a pharmacy’s opening week promotion, an advertisement was distributed providing an incentive—a free breakfast for two—when patients transferred their prescriptions to the pharmacy.
The registrant stated the objective was to introduce patients to the new pharmacy rather than persuade patients to leave one pharmacy for another.
Outcome from the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee
Upon reviewing the complaint, a panel of the College’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee observed that although the registrant indicated that the breakfast was not related to having patients transfer their prescriptions to the pharmacy, the advertisement stated this outright—transferring prescriptions would result in a free breakfast for two. The panel highlighted that the advertising represented an inducement to patients which is in violation of legislation.
The panel emphasized to the registrant that prior to putting out advertising materials, they must ensure that the content of these materials take into account applicable legislation and professional responsibilities. The panel pointed out that because advertising is seen by members of the public, it can affect the public’s perception of the profession of pharmacy. Caution is therefore required when advertising a pharmacy or pharmacy services as this advertising can been seen as a reflection on the wider profession.
The panel provided the registrant with advice/recommendations to assist her while considering any future advertising materials, including reviewing resources on the College’s website.
Learnings for Registrants
It is the responsibility of individual registrants to determine the appropriateness of advertising based on legislative requirements and professional responsibilities.
Registrants should also give thought to how the public would view the advertisement by considering if the public could interpret it as an incentive, inducement or benefit.
Legislation to consider when developing advertising
- The portion of the Drug and Pharmacies Regulation Act, O. Reg. 264/16 that refers to Advertising in Part V, s. 28-30
- The portion of the Pharmacy Act, O. Reg. 202/94 that refers to Advertising in Part VII.2, s. 28-30
- The relevant components of the Professional Misconduct and Conflict of Interest Regulation, O. Reg. 130/17
- The relevant components of O. Reg. 264/16, Part VI
- Advertising of narcotics is not permitted as per the Narcotic Control Regulations made under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, s.70
Professional responsibilities to consider when advertising
- Registrants should review the Standards of Practice which demonstrate professional expectations when delivering pharmacy services
- Reviewing the Code of Ethics will provide registrants with foundational principles of acceptable conduct that form a framework for ethics and professionalism for the delivery of pharmacy services
- The College’s Loyalty Points Policy
The guidance provided above is not exhaustive. Registrants who, after having read the information provided on the College website, remain unsure about their particular circumstance, may wish to obtain independent legal advice.