By Alex Gladu, Independent We Stand
It’s allergy season across the country, but if you live in North Dakota, you won’t be stopping by your local CVS or Walgreens for some relief. Thanks to a decades-old and recently upheld law, North Dakota has no chain pharmacies within its borders. It’s a scenario that sounds impossible for a modern society, but the 100-percent local system is a big win for the state.
The North Dakota pharmacy ownership law dates back to 1963. It states that only registered pharmacists may own and operate pharmacies within the state. More specifically, it requires the sole proprietor of a pharmacy to be a registered pharmacist. For corporations, the law requires that the majority of the corporation’s stock must be owned by registered pharmacists. It’s safe to say that the majority of Wal-Mart’s, CVS’ and Walgreens’ shareholders probably aren’t pharmacists.
More recently, North Dakota voters overwhelmingly fought to keep their local pharmacies. During a 2014 election, proposed Measure 7, which the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) reports was largely funded and supported by Wal-Mart, would have allowed chain pharmacies to start doing business in the state. It’s a bill that these big-money interest groups push for every few years, but in 2014, it actually landed on the ballot. Fortunately, 60 percent of voters came out against Measure 7 at the polls, effectively keep the state’s totally local pharmacy system intact.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that Measure 7 failed in 2014. North Dakota’s pharmacy system presents an array of advantages, according to a case study by ILSR. Take it from the Institute’s Stacy Mitchell, who referenced North Dakota’s pharmacies and the research behind them in a panel discussion with the American Booksellers Association in 2016:
“Lo and behold, they have among the lowest prescription drug prices of any state in the country. They have more pharmacies per capita than any other state in the country. If you live in a rural area in North Dakota, you are twice as likely to have a pharmacy in your town than if you live in a rural area in South Dakota.”
Overall, chain locations account for 70 percent of the country’s pharmacies. That’s because independent pharmacies can’t compete with chains’ insurer relationships and reimbursement rates, according to Mitchell. North Dakota’s law creates a sort of safe haven for local pharmacies – and a valuable case study for states elsewhere (Click to Tweet). For more information about North Dakota’s system, read ILSR’s report and support ILSR’s future work.
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