"Bitter ender" holds out against corporate pharmacy

February 10, 2016

Back in 1974, Drug Topics foretold the battle fought by corporate America over state regulation of pharmacy ownership. Here's what we said then - and here's how it turned out.

Back in 1974, Drug Topics examined the issue of pharmacy ownership. That is, the restrictions individual states had once placed on who could own pharmacies within their borders.

That article noted that “drug chains, supermarkets, and mass merchandisers will fight pharmacy ownership regulation to the bitter end, state by state.”

And so they did. For the most part, corporate America fought and won that battle, as chain pharmacies such as Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart now dominate the industry.

However, in one state that’s not the case. In 2014, North Dakota residents rejected a ballot measure that would have removed pharmacy-ownership restrictions. North Dakota remains the only state that prevents big-box retailers from providing medications to consumers.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, Walmart spent $9.3 million to convince North Dakota residents to eliminate the state law that requires majority ownership of pharmacies in the state to be held by pharmacists.

Despite that influx of corporate dollars, nearly 60% of the state’s residents rejected the effort to change North Dakota’s pharmacy-ownership rules. “I would hope the people of North Dakota have spoken,” Steve Boehning, president of the North Dakota Pharmacists Association, said following the ballot measure. “It’s been defeated legally and legislatively, and now by the public.”