To the editor:
John Strand's recommendation to HPR readers to keep North Dakota's 51-year-old, antiquated and convoluted "pharmacy ownership law" is short-sighted and not in the best interest of consumers in Fargo-West Fargo and throughout North Dakota.
John is, however, correct when he says "North Dakota's small towns are experiencing a resurgence." This is particularly true in the "oil patch." But, then he goes on to express totally groundless fears, perpetrated by mostly urban pharmacy-owners with a vested self-interest in keeping current law, that by allowing national retailers to own and operate pharmacies in North Dakota, that this would "diminish the viability of private, independent, pharmacist-owned services in rural parts."
If it were true, this would still be a totally wrong reason to keep a self-serving law, reducing, by a wide margin, all the choices available in pharmacy retailing to residents of 49 other states.
Rural access to local pharmacy services may actually increase if the YES vote on Measure 7 succeeds. How? Because, right now, hospitals and nursing homes in small towns are not "allowed" to open a pharmacy. They could if our current highly restrictive, draconian law is repealed. And why shouldn't they? "Oh," independent pharmacy owners will tell you, " the competition might hurt the drug store down the street." Might is the operative word here: if local residents feel they're getting a better deal and service from the drug store they've always gone to, they'll continue to do that. And they should! But what happens if the new competitor offers better service, lower prices and hires more NDSU pharmacy graduates? Isn't that an improvement for a small town? John's argument is as bogus as they come on this issue.
In North Dakota's urban areas, where most people live, consumers have been denied national discount programs offered by Walgreens and others for over a half-century. This is nonsense.
Walgreens has been a part of the Fargo-West Fargo business community for over 40 years. This is the largest, most respected pharmacy retailer in the United States. But they have been denied a pharmacy license by North Dakota's backward law on ownership. We're the laughing stock of the nation on this issue.
North Dakota's pharmacists will tell you that "Walgreens can have a pharmacy. They just have to let us own it." How absurd. Thousands of Americans own Walgreens, a publicly-owned company. Why must this respected national company give their pharmacy services to a local pharmacist in North Dakota so he or she can make bucks on Walgreens' branding, national pricing, programs and products? Why is this extra cost stop necessary? To protect current pharmacy owners in North Dakota, that's why, and it's dead wrong!
More than 20,000 North Dakotans signed a petition -- of their own free will -- to get this ice blocks vs. refrigerators law off the books. Remember too, not everybody has drug coverage. Thousands of North Dakotans will directly and immediately benefit from the $4 programs offered by major national retailers.
Stop all the nonsense with this ridiculous North Dakota law. Vote YES on Measure 7!
-Larry Gauper, Fargo
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