N.D. Tea Party hopes to overturn pharmacy ownership law this November

July 18, 2011

After the North Dakota legislature defeated a bill to overturn the state?s Pharmacy Ownership Law this year, a group is working to get the issue on the 2012 general election ballot.

After the North Dakota legislature defeated a bill to overturn the state’s Pharmacy Ownership Law this year, a group is working to get the issue on the 2012 general election ballot.

The Pharmacy Ownership Law states that a licensed pharmacist must own majority stock in any established pharmacy in the state. North Dakota is the only state with such a provision, which for years has kept big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart and large drugstore chains from opening pharmacies in their stores (unless the retailer owned a minority share).

This month, a group composed of individuals who also formed the North Dakota Tea Party is petitioning the state to approve a petition that would put the issue up for public vote in the November, 2012, election, provided enough signatures are obtained.

The North Dakota legislature has every year defeated attempts supported by Wal-Mart and Walgreens to overturn the law, said Mike Schwab, executive director of the North Dakota Pharmacists Association.

“The law has helped North Dakota maintain rural access at an optimal level, unseen in any other state,” Schwab said. In addition, North Dakota’s price per prescription is one of the lowest in the nation at 16.7%, according to the NACDS annual survey.

Schwab and independent pharmacists take issue with the big pharmacy chains that want to change a system that is working and allege that the chains’ $4 generics programs do not necessarily save patients and payers money. “A lot of discount programs are only available if you have cash … and people start to think that all their drugs are $4,” Schwab said.

In addition, many of North Dakota’s independent pharmacies provide services that big corporations do not provide as effectively, such as diabetes care and pain management, said Schwab.