Wal-Mart Spent $9.3 Million To Challenge ND Pharmacy Law

Wal-mart, ND pharmacy law

Pharmaceutical industry is regulated by both inside and outside forces. Typically, each state can decide the extent of regulation of any industry, including pharmaceuticals.

Why is this important? To ensure that the race to create better medications keeps public health interest in focus.

What does the North Dakota Pharmacy Ownership Law says?

In 1963, The North Dakota Century Code 43-15-35(e) was passed to ensure only qualified pharmacists are able to dispense prescription medicine. The law makes it necessary to have a local licensed pharmacy own majority shares (at least 51%) in the company.

It has a few exceptions, including pre-existing pharmacies and hospitals who want to register a new pharmacy in certain cases. This means that most of the retailer chains can’t get the permit to open a pharmacy store.

The history of debate

North Dakota isn’t the only state to have this law in place. Michigan requires 25% of a company’s shares to be held by a local licensed pharmacist.

The ND Pharmacy Ownership Law has been debated several times previously. The ballot to repeal the law was first proposed in 2009. But it was rejected as the sponsoring committee’s members’ names and addresses were missing.

It was proposed in 2011 again, when the application was filed but it couldn’t make to the ballot then. State legislators recommended amendments in the law in 2011, which was rejected by a majority of the North Dakota House.

Finally, in 2014, the ballot reached the public. And the citizens largely voted against the amendment. Nearly 60% voters opposed the change in this decades old law.

Influencing public opinion

Major chains like Wal-Mart and Target did their best to sway the public opinion. The polls suggested equal division of voters on both sides, and 26% of the residents being undecided. Their main campaigning point was the availability of affordable drugs through these larger retail chains.

Despite pouring in a total of $272 million in support or opposition of the ballot, these businesses had little to no effect on public opinion. Wal-Mart itself spent $9.3 million, according to the Center of Public Integrity, in order to eliminate the ownership law.

The argument didn’t hold because it simply wasn’t true. According to the reports of Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), there were 171 independent pharmacies operating in the state in 2014. They offered pharmacy care that outperformed other states in most measures, including cost and access.

In fact, prescription drugs in North Dakota are more affordable compared to two-third of other states. Without the law in place, as many as 70 pharmacies would shut down, affecting local businesses, local economy and the residents as well.

The state continues to prioritize quality healthcare, ensuring the residents benefit from the state-regulated pharmaceuticals. Follow our pharmacy news blog to learn more about the local pharmacy setup and current regulations that are in place.