Case: Loiselle c Audette [Loiselle c Audette, 2013 CanLII 31826 (QC CDOPQ)]

Nature of case: Disciplinary Hearing

Date of decision: June 4, 2013

Summary

This decision rendered by the Order of Pharmacists of Quebec (“OPQ”) disciplinary committee further clarifies and limits the scope of article 50 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists, R.R.Q. c. P-10 r.7, namely, permissible benefits relating to the practice of pharmacy. The OPQ disciplinary committee found that compensation paid out to a pharmacist in exchange for patient information was not permitted under article 50 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists.

Accusations

Mr. Audette, a pharmacist and member of the OPQ, was accused of having violated three separate articles of the Code of ethics of pharmacists: articles 50, 62 and 66, during the period of March 12, 2010 to January 31, 2012:

  1. Mr. Audette “illegally” received a benefit in the practice of pharmacy in the form of a payment in exchange for submitting to RxCanada inc. the names and information of patients taking a certain drug. Compensation was 6.10$ per patient. This was a violation of article 50 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists.
  2. Mr. Audette failed to preserve the secrecy of confidential information obtained in the practice of pharmacy having sent information, including names and addresses, of patients taking a certain drug to RxCanada inc. without the consent of his patients. This was a violation of article 62 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists.
  3. Mr. Audette failed to take reasonable measures with respect to his employees and personnel to ensure that the secrecy of confidential information is preserved. This was a violation of article 66 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists.

Mr. Audette, by way of his lawyer, plead guilty to all three accusations.

Facts

Mr. Audette agreed to participate in a program offered by RxCanada inc. This program was to offer free information and educational material to patients. The disciplinary committee agreed that this, itself, did not violate the Code of ethics of pharmacists.

Where Mr. Audette was deemed to be off-side the Code of ethics of pharmacists was in his implementation of his obligations under the agreement to participate in this program, namely the breach of his obligation to preserve the confidentiality of patients’ information, and, as will be discussed below, receiving compensation for the names and information he submitted to RxCanada inc.

Without their consent, Mr. Audette’s pharmacy sent confidential information pertaining to 59 of his patients (information including names, addresses, illnesses and medication being taken) to RxCanada inc. This constituted a violation of articles 62 and 66 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists.

Further to this privacy breach, Mr. Audette also violated the Code of ethics of pharmacists in receiving compensation for the transfer of the aforementioned confidential information. The total amount received by Mr. Audette for his participation in the RxCanada inc. program was 359.90$ ( at 6.10$ per name, 59 names provided to RxCanada inc.)

Article 50 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists reads as follows:

50. No pharmacist may accept a benefit relating to the practice of pharmacy, over and above remuneration to which the pharmacist is entitled. Customary tokens of appreciation and gifts of small value may, however, be accepted.

No pharmacist may pay, offer to pay or undertake to pay a benefit to any person in relation to the practice of the profession.

Decision

The disciplinary committee of the OPQ addressed the privacy breach and remuneration violations separately.

With respect to the privacy violations, there was no proof of consent by the patients to having their confidential information sent to RxCanada inc. Mr. Audette plead guilty to having violated articles 62 and 66 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists. He was condemned to pay a total of 2,500$ for both infractions.

With respect to the compensation received by Mr. Audette in exchange for sending the names to RxCanada inc., the disciplinary committee was of the opinion that Mr. Audette knew or should have known that it is prohibited to receive a benefit outside of what was allowed pursuant to article 50 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists, namely, “remuneration to which the pharmacist is entitled.”

The disciplinary committee levied what it deemed a heavy fine of 1,500$ on Mr. Audette for this infraction explaining that the highly publicized August 31, 2010 decision (find link below) was issued by the disciplinary committee within the period during which the above activities took place. This decision found that the volume discounts given to the pharmacist, Mr. Archambault, by pharmaceutical companies were considered to be outside the scope of the “remuneration to which the pharmacist is entitled.”

Conclusion

The OPQ, by way of this decision, has clarified that the scope of what would fall within “remuneration to which the pharmacist is entitled” excludes compensation paid to pharmacists in exchange for patient information. Such compensation would constitute a prohibited benefit. Companies entering into such agreements with pharmacists in Quebec should be aware that such compensation is prohibited under article 50 of the Code of ethics of pharmacists. Without providing guidance as to the full scope of article 50, the decision provides a further example of what would be considered to fall outside the scope of “remuneration to which the pharmacist is entitled.”

Link to decision

 

Loiselle c Audette, 2013 CanLII 31826 (QC CDOPQ)]