Bye bye free flights

I’m in the thirteenth row on the left.

I have 3508 Airmiles and I feel dirty. The College of Alberta Pharmacists announced last Friday that, on ethical grounds, prescriptions will no longer be eligible for incentive points as of May 31, 2014. I’ve been involved in an unethical endeavour.

J. and I could fly round trip to Vancouver or Seattle or Portland, and have points left over, or one of us could have a free ticket somewhere farther afield. Airmiles are one of my few benefits of being sick.

I earn these points primarily through a grocery store’s pharmacy, where I am granted 7 Airmiles for every $20 I spend on drugs. Sure, I earn the odd Airmile by buying groceries, but I shop rarely there since groceries are cheaper elsewhere.

Every three months, my current drug cocktail costs me $2440. That’s excluding the exorbitant cost of my cancer drug that the Alberta Government generously covers.  Actually, let’s clarify that: I’m not the one paying. Every three months, after paying for a private drug plan and J.’s including me on her work drug plan, I pay nothing out of pocket for drugs. I flash my Airmiles card when I pick up my stash, pay nothing up front, and receive a huge number of miles. Here’s the math: last quarter, I earned 854 Airmiles from said drugs. 1000 Airmiles is enough to fly me to Vancouver (or Regina or Kelowna, but I don’t really want to go to there).

In the one month that my personal coverage ran out prematurely, only 80% of my drug total was covered, which amounted to almost $500 coming out of my pocket. Luckily, I was able to find a different drug plan that covers everyone irrespective of health, and I decided my $63.50 monthly fee would be more than worth it. I can see how people in the States without drug plans go bankrupt.

I appreciate that the Pharmacists’ College does not want people to abuse such a privilege, but, in my view, that is presuming I would choose to be on all of these medications. Trust me, I do not. The side effects are too numerous to list, but I can say that I often question whether a new symptom is due to one of my ailments or to drug side effects. No, I would not choose to be on all these drugs–my doctors have told me I have to. Trust me, I wouldn’t buy them from any pharmacy if I didn’t have to.

Some people may go to a particular pharmacy to collect their rewards points, but I frequent mine because it is close to my home, and I can buy groceries there. Most importantly, the very kind pharmacists have followed me through many illnesses and helped me manage endless potential drug interactions. They have kept me safe for almost 14 years now.

So l am saddened by this news. I have only one more expensive prescription to fill before May 1, and I will. I didn’t select this pharmacy to receive Airmiles, and I won’t stop going there once I don’t. At least I won’t have to worry about the ethical implications anymore.


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