Small Pharmacies Win One vs. Chains in ND

Discussion
Sep 29, 2010
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By
George
Anderson

North
Dakota
remains
the only
state
in the union where Wal-Mart Stores
cannot sell $4 generic prescription
drugs due to a law that requires every
pharmacy to be owned by a pharmacist.

“People shouldn’t be required to spend so much more than they have to
for the simple act of trying to keep themselves healthier,” Ryan Horn,
a Wal-Mart spokesperson, told The Associated Press. “That is what
this law is doing, and it shouldn’t stand.”

Earlier this month, the state’s
Supreme Court upheld Attorney General Al Jaeger’s rejection of a petitioned
submitted by a group called North Dakotans for Lower Prescription Drug Prices,
which would have allowed a ballot vote to overturn the law. Mr. Jaeger rejected
the petition because the group failed to identify the names and addresses of
the proposed bill’s sponsors in accordance with state law.

“It’s unfortunate because a lot of people signed those petitions,
but the responsibility to make sure they are circulated correctly is up to
the sponsoring committee,” Mr. Jaeger told the Bismarck Tribune.

Small
pharmacies and proponents of the law argue it is necessary in such a rural
state. The law was originally passed in the 1960’s when there were concerns
about local doctors buying up pharmacies.

“In many smaller cities in North Dakota, one of the few people who has
any medical knowledge and ability is the local pharmacist. Seniors look to
the pharmacist for a whole lot of advice,” state Rep. Jim Kasper told
the AP. “Losing
them would be like the school closing or the post office closing. You just
lose the heart of your town.”

Discussion Question: Does the North Dakota law requiring a pharmacist to
own a pharmacy still make sense today?

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17 Comments on "Small Pharmacies Win One vs. Chains in ND"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

North Dakota’s laws that still require every pharmacy to be owned by a pharmacist is as refreshingly antiquated as is the state of North Dakota itself. Wow.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

It sounds like a technicality has prevented free enterprise from operating in North Dakota. My guess is that the people behind the petitions will go back and get it right the second time. I am sure the people of North Dakota had solid reasons to write this law but much changes in 40 years! Today’s shoppers have come to expect the ability to choose the best priced options for all types of consumer goods and in a recession there are significant savings to be had on prescriptions.

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
10 years 7 months ago

I am surprised this law has survived this long with the graying of the US and the rising cost of healthcare. For people that need the $4 prescription this must seem like a government “on drugs.”

Jonathan Marek
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

People in North Dakota should have the right to pay less. If they want to use a more expensive but more personal pharmacist, they have that right too. Consumers, as always, should vote with their feet, not their tongues.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
10 years 7 months ago

A classic example of “If you can’t compete, legislate.” While the folksy explanation of the pharmacist as the only medical advice in town sounds reasonable, it doesn’t hold water. If the community is that small, there won’t be a WM since it makes no sense. There’s also the question of mail-order scripts. Are those not allowed in North Dakota and, if so, how is that enforced?

The consumer is the ultimate loser here.

David Livingston
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

North Dakota is a high growth/low unemployment and generally a business friendly state. They will eventually get this right. New people moving in will want their cheap Wal-Mart prescriptions. Even if they don’t, consumers often come out ahead in North Dakota because of an overall lower cost of living and lower taxes.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

This is a silly, anti-competitive law that reflects state government at its worst. There obviously is a strong lobby defending rescission. But, one wonders how much money they must be costing their citizens. There may even be a number of people who say they support the law because they are thinking the local guy should be protected, but they will move just as fast to those $4 prescriptions as everyone else.

Not only does this law not make sense, it is anti-competitive and an example of business socialism.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
10 years 7 months ago
I’m frankly surprised by many of the responses here. My father was a single store retailer. He raised 2 kids and sent us both to college by selling clothes to the middle class. At some point in the last 20 years, I realized there was no way he could have “made it” today. I’m going to stand on a soap box for a minute and say that a country that only gives its populace the choice of working for large corporations in offices, warehouses or stores and doesn’t promote private ownership is a country that has lost its moral imperative. A country that only consumes and doesn’t produce anything is a country without a sustainable economy. Perhaps this law has created some unintended consequences, but frankly, I am happy to see independents supported–even if it makes a few products more expensive. I mean for heaven’s sake, think how many people go across the border to Canada for other prescription drugs because they cost so much less there. And we stand here talking about “lowering consumer… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

The North Dakota law served its purpose during the time it was needed. Times have changed. So has the population. It’s time to change the law as refreshing as it is to see Wal-Mart challenged and defeated in Round 1. I doubt you will see a rush of big chains rushing to North Dakota because of it.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

People in North Dakota have the same rights as everyone else in America. It is up to them to use the process to change the law the same way they used the law to limit the ownership of pharmacies.

If this petition was found illegal, I am sure that they can get another one signed that is not illegal or pressure the legislature to change the law.

Robert Straub
Guest
Robert Straub
10 years 7 months ago

I always find it interesting how people on both sides of the aisle change their tunes on states’ rights when a particular state is doing something they do or don’t like.

The good people of North Dakota will decide for themselves if they want to change this or not.

George Anderson
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

Ultimately, I suppose there is a trade-off. If consumers get the right to buy $4 prescription meds in North Dakota, they are likely to have to drive more miles to get them since big boxes need many more shoppers than small stores to stay in business. Of course, many of these chains are not really shut out of North Dakota with the growth of mail order and online prescription services. Free enterprise generally finds a way even in the face of government “intervention.”

Herb Sorensen
Guest
10 years 7 months ago

Seems like an infringement of interstate commerce. The law can be/will be overturned, one way or the other. The question is, at what cost?

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
10 years 7 months ago

My question is why the North Dakota legislators haven’t taken action yet? They’re the ones who should be looking out for the welfare of the citizens they represent by acting quickly to rid the state of this unbelievable law.

Malcolm Scrymgeour
Guest
Malcolm Scrymgeour
10 years 7 months ago

Part of my role is to work with Pharmacists in Australia. Interestingly, the same law that applies in ND, applies in Australia. Competition is intense between the independents. Do not assume that independent ownership dictates that automatically to higher prices. It may, but in Australia that is not the case.

It is also interesting to note that the only point discussed so far in this issue has been in relation to price. International experience would suggest that price competition between independents remains intense, while the advice and service levels are elevated. One hopes that is the case for ND!

John Lofstock
Guest
John Lofstock
10 years 7 months ago

I agree that the lawmakers seem to be turning a blind eye to their constituents in favor of the powerful drug lobby. Who would have thought customers in South Africa will be benefiting from Walmart’s drug discounts before North Dakota residents?

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
10 years 7 months ago

I agree with others who think this law is antiquated. Why does a pharmacy have to be owned by a pharmacist when you will always have a pharmacist working inside the store to fill prescriptions and answer consumer questions?

Times have changed. Consumers deserve to get competitive pricing.

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