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Pharmacy ownership measure approved for Nov. 4 ballot

BISMARCK – An initiated measure aimed at changing North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership law has been approved for the Nov. 4 ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced Friday.

The measure’s sponsoring committee needed the signatures of 13,452 qualified voters to get the measure on the ballot. They submitted 24,219 signatures, and 22,758 were accepted by Jaeger’s office.

If approved, the measure would amend state law to remove the requirement that pharmacies be operated by a licensed pharmacist, a business controlled by licensed pharmacists, or a hospital pharmacy or postgraduate medical residency training program.

Lifting the requirement would allow national retailers such as Walmart and Walgreens to operate pharmacies in the state. North Dakota is the only state that requires pharmacies to be majority-owned by pharmacists who are licensed in the state.

Measure supporters claim the existing law has limited pharmacy ownership to a chosen few and resulted in higher prescription drug costs for residents.

The North Dakota Pharmacists Association supports the existing law, arguing it results in better access to pharmaceutical care –- especially in rural areas -– and hasn’t contributed to higher drug prices.

The measure is the sixth measure to be approved for the Nov. 4 ballot, and two more are under review: a Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks constitutional amendment that would create a conservation fund using oil tax revenue, and a proposed change in state law that would require schools to start classes after Labor Day.

If all eight measures are approved for the ballot, it would tie the number of measures put to voters in November 1980, December 1989 and November 1990, according to Jaeger.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.