A ballot measure backed by the retail giants Wal-Mart and Walgreen’s aims to change a nearly 50-year-old law that requires North Dakota pharmacies be majority-owned by independent pharmacists. Since 1963, the North Dakota Pharmacy Ownership Law has barred hospitals, chain drug stores and any retail businesses without majority-ownership by local pharmacists from operating pharmacies in the state.
North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership law is the only one of its kind in the United States. Its unique provisions have allowed independently-owned pharmacies to thrive throughout the state. According to figures published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), nearly 90 percent of North Dakota’s pharmacies are independently-owned and operated. By comparison, only around 30 percent of the pharmacies throughout the rest of the country operate under independent ownership.
With financial backing from Walgreen’s and Wal-Mart, the group North Dakotans for Affordable Healthcare hopes to repeal the law through the passage of a ballot measure in the upcoming November election. After months of petitioning North Dakota voters, the group confirms it has exceeded the amount of signatures required to have their initiative placed on the state’s 2010 election ballot.
According to the group’s website, the pharmacy ownership law unfairly restricts the sale of generic prescription drugs in North Dakota by non-pharmacist-owned businesses. As a result, the group claims, North Dakota residents continue to pay more for medications than consumers in other states.
Despite claims that the pharmacy ownership law prevents North Dakota prescription drug users from saving money, a 2009 report issued by ISLR found that repealing the law may actually cost the state millions in lost tax revenue and related economic activity. The report also said passage of the repeal would jeopardize local pharmacies that serve the state’s many rural communities.
Recent efforts by the North Dakotans for Affordable Healthcare group aren’t the first attempt to overturn the pharmacy ownership law. The law was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the 1970s and was the subject of an attempted repeal by members of the North Dakota State Legislature in 2009.
Although its pharmacy ownership laws are unique, North Dakota, like all other states, relies on the expertise of pharmacy professionals to provide valuable prescription-related services to its residents.
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For additional information on North Dakota’s Pharmacy Ownership Law and the opposing ballot initiative sponsored by North Dakotans for Affordable Healthcare, please visit: