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LETTER: Pharmacy initiative deserves N.D.’s support

FARGO — Did you know there is an outdated law in North Dakota that forces most residents to pay more for their prescription medications?

It’s true. North Dakota is the only state which mandates by statute that a pharmacy must be at least 51 percent majority-owned by a licensed pharmacist. This is why most major national retail chains here in North Dakota don’t have a pharmacy counter in their stores.

Walgreens is the nation’s largest drug store company; but because of the North Dakota law, it is illegal for a customer to get a prescription drug in the only Walgreens drug store located in the entire state. The Walgreens drug store in Fargo stands alone as the only one of the company’s locations in the entire country that does not have a pharmacy. How ridiculous is that?

The pharmacy ownership law was enacted in 1963. The effect of this law is that it has created a shield of protection around North Dakota’s independently-owned pharmacies against any significant competition.

Let me be clear about one thing. If Herald readers are getting good service at a fair price from their local hometown drug store, then absolutely, they should keep their business there.

This is an issue that has been much-debated here in North Dakota over the past five years or so. Back-to-back initiated measure efforts to change the law were launched, but neither succeeded in getting the issue onto the ballot.

A new group called North Dakotans for Lower Pharmacy Prices currently is gathering petition signatures on a new proposed initiated measure. I hope North Dakota residents who see someone asking for signatures for the pharmacy ownership law initiative will take a moment to sign the petition.