Shoppers pharmacists sue over shady practices

Class-action lawsuits can be a real headache, but luckily Shoppers Drug Mart executives have an unlimited supply of extra-strength Tylenol at their disposal. 

What happened: An ex-Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacist has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against his former workplace, and its parent company Loblaw, claiming that the chain breached franchising deals by coercing pharmacists into “unsafe and unethical" behaviour.

  • The claim states Loblaw brought in shady practices after buying Shoppers in 2014 — like quotas for medical reviews, axing support staff hours, and requiring questionable off-site med preparation — which restricted pharmacists’ ability to care for patients.

  • The suit, which current and former pharmacists could join if it goes to trial, also alleges that Shoppers terminated franchise deals if pharmacists spoke up.

Zoom out: The proposed suit comes just weeks after the CBC found Shoppers imposed quotas on pharmacists for medication reviews — allegedly because they can charge the federal government up to $75 a pop for them — despite the chain’s president denying it did any such a thing. 

Why it matters: If Shoppers did impair pharmacists’ capacity to do their jobs at the risk of patient safety, that’s a big deal, as Shoppers has a lot of patients. With over 1,300 locations across the country, it is one of the main places Canadians go to get prescriptions filled.

Big picture: Incidents like this raise concerns about Shoppers’s conflict of interest between providing adequate care and turning a profit for its shareholders. This concern has grown among some advocates as the company expands its number of for-profit care clinics, which have been touted as a viable substitute for minor visits to the doctor’s office.—QH